Rankin Inlet FC has a long way to go to compete on the national stage after being humbled at the Futsal Canadian Championship.
The squad finished last in the eight-team tourney during round-robin play at the tournament at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., from April 19 to 22.
They still made the playoffs but were eliminated after one game.
It was the first time a team from Nunavut entered the competition and Rankin FC member James Merritt said the level of play at nationals was something he’d never seen before.
“It just wasn’t one player per team or anything like that, it was their overall style of play,” said Merritt. “They all knew where each other was going to be at all times and they all played systems that were really impressive.”
The team compete hard against the Yukon in their final game and almost pulled it off. They were three goals down in the first half but fought back in the second before losing 3-2.
The scores in their games against a Quebec team, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were more lopsided, he said.
“If we ever hope to go down there and really compete, we’re going to need full commitment from a full team of players, and, I think, we’d also need to have someone come in and teach us how to play a real system,” said Merritt.
“We didn’t really appreciate the level of play that was waiting for us in Kingston,” he said. “We walked into our first game thinking we had a chance to win and that changed really, really fast.”
Merritt said the other teams at the event welcomed the players of the Rankin Inlet FC with open arms.
Everyone was happy the Rankin team was there, and they all offered to help the Nunavut squad in any way they could, he said.
“It was really nice the way they treated us,” he said. “We also felt a little, I don’t know, out of place, I guess, because the bit of gear we had was nothing compared to that of the other teams. I think they felt a little bad because everyone else had track suits and everything and we didn’t have very much.”
Rankin FC coach Paul Stroeder said the level of talent at the national championship was simply phenomenal.
He said the first thing Rankin FC can take away from the experience is that you have to be in top physical shape to have any chance of competing at the national level.
“The second area we were obviously far behind the other teams was that of tactical play; how to use tactical play while both attacking and defending,” said Stroeder.
“We could put a team together that could compete at that level, but it takes dedication and commitment. One thing I will say, however, is that there’s no need going out and seeking sponsorships if the players aren’t committed because you’re just wasting money.”
Stroeder said it was still a very positive experience for the Rankin FC to compete at the national level.
He said the players did compete as hard as they could, and they never gave up, no matter what the score.
“Chad (Graham) and I are going to scout our U18 territorial to see about, maybe, bringing some of them in for a tryout or possibly taking a team over to the Yukon for a friendly (competition), to see how they play,” he said. “We also have to develop and buy into total team play. It’s a team sport and we really found that out at the nationals. Some players are trying to be individualists and, I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work. They just got eaten-up.
Rankin has a good core of players but changes are needed, said Stroeder.
“It’s not a weekend getaway. If you want a weekend getaway, do it on your own time not mine. And there was a little bit too much of that down there, guaranteed,” he said.