Paul to play for: Decle relishing challenge for Trinidad and Tobago Futsal

PAUL DECLE will be at the heart of Trinidad and Tobago's quest to make September's FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania.

The two islands native has been reappointed to his role of assistant coach with the national men's squad who are under the guidance of experienced American Constantine Konstin.

Sport Careers Agency client Decle and the T and T staff are now preparing their squad for the CONCACAF Futsal Championship which kicks off on April 30 in Guatemala and can be their gateway to the big one.

Paul is working with a squad that has many of the national outdoor players in its ranks and he told "Our objective has always been to set it out in front of the players that they are three games from Lithuania.

"The top four go through and we have set that simple target in front of them.

"The outdoors 11-a-side grass team has Nations League then qualifiers and knock-outs before we can think of the World Cup.

"Our 11-a-side CONCACAF team can face 10 to 15 games to make the World Cup but we can make it in Futsal in just three."

Hosts Guatemala, Guadelope and Martinique stand in front of the Trinidad and Tobago squad in their section.

If they win that group and make the semi-finals of the 16-team tournament then winning the CONCACAF trophy is the obvious dream but World Cup qualification will already have been assured.

As a crucial part of Coach Konstin's staff, Paul is now fully focused on the training programme to ready the team for crunch time three months from now.

He reasoned: "It's very different coaching Futsal, different rules, smaller pitch on a hard surface with a different ball and in 5 v 5 it's so much faster.

"This is like basketball, there are a lot of transitions, up and down every day.

"Our challenge is that we don't have a Futsal league in Trinidad so we are converting footballers into Futsal players.

"A lot of these guys are pros or ex-pros or they have come from our national team and they are ingrained in the grass version of the game."

When you speak with Decle about the coaching process involved in Futsal it's fascinating to hear his insights.

He believes the shortened version of the game can be a critical component in the development journey of 11-a-side players.

Paul feels it is a huge influence in honing their dribbling skills and improving their confidence in 1 v 1 situations.

He revealed: "It's a challenge to get seasoned players to adapt and one of the things we look at closely is their mindset and their willingness to make that transition.

"As good as they are on the grass they come in to the Futsal court and they get exposed.

"There is a lot more time and space on the grass and sometimes your weaknesses don't show there.

"Decision-making is massive in Futsal and it separates you in this version of the game."

Last week saw Paul back on the court with the T and T players after all the frustrations that the pandemic has brought in his part of the world.

He feared the Futsal project would be a football casualty with FIFA and that the tournament might be shelved.

Now it is full steam ahead, though, and Paul confessed: "I thought COVID-19 had killed this dream and I can't describe the type of energy that came through me last week being back out on the court.

"It was amazing because as coaches we have lost a lot over the last year and now we must learn to appreciate every second on the court or the field even more."

SPORT CAREERS AGENCY has been a driving force in Paul's coaching career as he develops in Trinidad and Tobago. Look out for an in-depth interview on a dedicated coach's football journey on the website later this month.

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