Posts Tagged ‘ Istanbul ’

Turkish Unrest Spreads As Erdogan Remains Defiant

Protesters clashed with police across Turkey overnight despite an apology for police violence from the Deputy Prime Minister designed to halt an unprecedented wave of protest against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Pro-government newspapers signaled a softening of Ankara’s line in the absence of Erdogan, who flew off on a state visit to north Africa on Monday night after a weekend of rioting critics were inflamed by his denunciations of protesters. Continue reading

Irish Footballtennis Team to Take Centre Stage in Cyprus

The Irish squad will be heading off to the European Championships a lot sooner than you think. With Euro 2012 over six months away, get behind the other boys in green who are representing Ireland in the European Footballtennis Championships this week. The Irish footballtennis team – Jamie Mulrooney (captain), Steven Conway, Emmet Ó Mordha and Liam Hynes – have just landed in Cyprus to compete against nine other teams in what promises to be an exciting tournament of an ever-growing sport.

Footballtennis or ‘Futnet’ is a football-based game played on a court with similar dimensions to that of a tennis court. Despite its links with soccer and tennis, the sport holds its own identity and unique style of play. It originated in central Europe in the 1930s and remains most popular there. However, it is gradually becoming more popular in countries such as Ireland. Footballtennis has three basic disciplines – singles, doubles and triples – and is played competitively by men (over 18) , women (over 18), juniors (16 – 18), youngsters (13 – 15), children (12 and under) and veterans. The Irish team play in all three disciplines. Flexibility is imperative in the sport, especially in the groin, hamstring and the legs as the net used in the game is a meter in height. The whole body receives a workout as players utilise somewhat dormant muscles and also engage their backs, arms, hips, gluts, calves and ankles as they block and spike the ball over the net.

The Irish squad received a baptism of fire as their first competitive foray into the sport just so happened to be last year’s World Championships in Instanbul. However, team member Steven Conway acknowledges that the European Championships will be a tougher tournament as the sport’s best teams hail from eastern and central Europe. He says, “We are expecting a tough competition but we are looking forward to seeing how far we have actually come in the last year!”

The team split their training between Maynooth in Co Kildare and Ballina in Co Mayo, playing up to four times a week.

It’s fair to say the Irish footballtennis team had a somewhat unlikely but quite serendipitous start. Steven remembers how, in September of last year, he and a group of his college friends where heading home from the astro turf pitch in Maynooth, bemoaning the fact they missed out on their weekly game of football as the pitch was booked out. They happened to pass by a couple of empty tennis courts and started to knock the ball around there. Before long, a proper game was in progress. Steven recalls, “That evening back at the lads’ house we were talking about how we all used to play football on tennis courts when we were younger and we wondered if there was anything on the internet about it.” An online search led to the discovery of FIFTA – the international governing body of footballtennis. On the organisation’s website there was mention of a world championships coming up three months later in Istanbul. Better still, there was free accommodation and food for the participating teams, and, at the time, no Irish team to take part.

Steven says, “We laughed about entering a team and our friend Jamie [Mulrooney] sent a hopeful email explaining how we would love to compete in the tournament. A week or two later, to our surprise, the president of FIFTA replied to our email and explained that there were two wildcard places up for grabs. The cost of flights to Istanbul was €360, a bit steep for students, but this was an opportunity to represent our country at an international level – we didn’t care if we had to eat peanuts for the next few weeks to afford it, we were going!”

Nine weeks of intense training ensued in what was by far the coldest winter Ireland had seen in years. Not knowing what to expect when they landed in Instanbul, the team were happy enough to just win a few points per game. Twelve teams in total competed in the championship and Ireland were pitted against some of the best on their first day of professional playing. Despite a few heavy defeats, the team also won a game and pushed host nation Turkey to the very limit. Steven notes, “We had now found our feet and knew our place. The next day we were put into a play-off to see which teams would finish from 8th to 12th. This was between ourselves, Serbia, Georgia, and India. After a close game with the Serbs we managed to actually beat the Georgians and Indians to give Ireland its first international footballtennis victories and claim 10th spot in the World Championships!”

Having competed against some of the best football tennis teams in the world, the squad realised they had a responsibility to lay a foundation for the sport in Ireland. They spoke to some of the players, coaches and president of the sport in order to get some advice. The general consensus was to apply to the national sports council for funding and to continue promoting the sport in Ireland. The team compiled a 20,000 word funding application for the Irish Sports Council in which they outlined their constitution, aims and beliefs. They also documented the physical and psychological benefits of the sport and how they planned to utilise it as an integration tool for the sizable eastern European community in our country due to the sport’s popularity there.

In order to spread the footballtennis word, the team set up a website, uploaded a number of YouTube videos and kept in regular contact with the media. A documentary following the team’s story will be released online shortly.

 

In May of this year, Steven and Jamie attended the Footballtennis World Congress in Hungary. At this meeting the FIFTA president and existing members voted the Irish squad in as a full member of the organisation and so the Footballtennis Association of Ireland (FTAI) was now officially recognised. FIFTA went one further by offering Ireland the chance to host the next Footballtennis World Championships. As many of the team originally hail from the west of Ireland, it was hoped that the tournament could be held in Castlebar, Co  Mayo.

However, the Irish Sports Council have since informed the FTAI that they are not eligible for funding as they haven’t been an organisation for the necessary two years. The hosting of such a championship would have brought vital revenue to the country and further promoted this upcoming sport – a missed opportunity that will hopefully come to fruition at a future stage. Despite this disappointment, The ISC has put the FTAI in contact with the Football Association of Ireland whose grassroots development officer is exploring ways in which he can help develop the sport here. Steven says, “With the right financial backing we could host a World Championship in this country and have the first Irish women’s and junior footballtennis teams compete along side our men’s team. Bringing over 16 different countries in three disciplines would bring over 400 people from the teams alone. To support a national team as they host a world cup is an opportunity any business should be proud to be part of.”

Notwithstanding the setbacks incurred due to financial and emigration woes, the team are now thriving under the skilful watch of coach Juraj Holkovic – a former footballtennis player and coach from Slovakia (one of the top two footballtennis teams in the world). Juraj now lives in Longford and got in touch with the Irish squad after he heard about them in the media following their participation in last year’s world championships. Steven feels Juraj’s input now ensures the team are being trained to the very highest standard, saying their knowledge of the game has increased hugely.

The Irish team are now top of the recently established monthly Northern Ireland Footballtennis League in Belfast. They are also in regular contact with the new English footballtennis team so there is the possibility of a Tri Nations Cup sometime in the future. The FTAI also hope hoping to set up a club in Sligo in the new year in order to strengthen the foundations of the sport in this country so that footballtennis will remain a sport here for years to come.

For further information about footballtennis, check out the FIFTA and Futnet websites.