It was our honour to talk to Mark Staines, the President of the England Minifootball. The original country of football is an emerging market for minifootball as well, with 1.5 million people playing every week in England it counts as the biggest EMF country currently.
Just saw the news about your new management team, our congratulations. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Who does the team consist of?
Thanks! John Paul Collier and Ross Cable are the men in charge, but Mark Dacey is part of the management team as well. He will be the Coach and he has a lot of experience to offer the team.
John Paul and Ross are very passionate people who both strive to be the best at whatever they do, so we’re hoping that rubs off on the national team.
What do you think will change with the new team?
Previously, the attitude of the players hasn’t always been the best. We’re not sure why that was, but with the new team, we believe they won’t allow that to happen as they want to create a professional environment on and off the field, and we’re hoping that will have a knock on effect on the team’s performance.
You will have your National team trials soon? Is it the last stage towards building the National team or just the start? How do you select your players, how can the ‘man on the street’ represent an entire Nation?
The guys have already started to build a squad as they already had an idea about the nucleus of the team and who they wanted, so they’ve been and got them. Now with the trials, they’ll bring in the remaining players.
With the Euros less than 4 months away, the trials will be the last stage for this year’s squad, but we’ll never stop adding players and trying to be stronger.
The trials are open to everyone over the age of 17. It doesn’t matter what your background is as everyone is given the same opportunity, impress the management team and you’re in!
Your team is really unpredictable, typical dark horses, you went very far in Kyiv in 2018, finishing 4th, showing you can compete with all the top nations, so what is your secret, why is it so hard for teams to play against England?
In England, we have a lot of individually gifted footballers and I think most countries would agree that we’re up there with the best. Our biggest problem is gelling as a team.
Over here, most Minifootball played is 5 a side but it involves a lot of individual moments and it’s very quick, whereas with 6 a side, despite being only one player more, it’s completely different and is closer to 11 a side and Futsal. It’s about trying to get players to adapt to sixes instead of fives, but we’re slowly getting there.
After a two year gap since the last major tournament, we’re likely to see completely different teams, who do you think can surprise us?
Slovakia have been really building well in recent years and being the host nation, they’ll want to do well. Hungary are getting stronger and they are the current Champions League holders as well, so I think they’ll be interesting contenders, but for me, I think Russia will be the team to beat.
Russian Minifootball is progressing really well, the standard of their teams at 6, 7 & 8 a side is very high currently. The only problem with Russia is they’re always prone to throw in the odd bad game in a tournament, but if they have the right attitude and want it, they can win the Euros. Their team is very powerful and they have gifted individuals as well.
What is your main aim for the Euros, do England have what it takes to come out on top this year?
Of course we will be going there to win and we hope we can progress as far as we can in the competition, but realistically, it’s going to be very difficult for us as we have a new management team who need time to build a squad and get them playing how they want them to.
If we get a good draw, who knows how far we can go, we over achieved at the last Euros. However, this year we have a stronger squad, so let’s see what happens!
Do you remember the hardest game for you?
The hardest game for us at the last Euros was against Romania as it was a real eye opener and the scoreline (2:4) really didn’t do the Romanians justice as it could have been a Cricket score.
We lost heavily to the Czechs in the semi finals, but we were very fatigued and out on our feet at that stage, we made so many silly mistakes. Kazakhstan was very difficult for us also.
How did the last year go for you and your Federation? Did Covid influence Minifootball a lot in England?
Covid had a really negative effect on us in the UK because we’ve had numerous lockdowns and team sport was banned for the majority of the last 15 months.
We’re allowed to play team sports again now, but we still have a lot of precautions we have to take to play, and we still can’t travel to play abroad. This has hindered our training and stopped us playing friendlies, which isn’t ideal when you’re preparing for a major tournament, but it’s the same for all countries.
The pandemic will definitely set back Minifootball across the whole world, but it’s one of those situations that happens once in your lifetime if you’re unlucky, so we just have to get on with it and come back stronger as a group once everything returns… to normal.
There is an opinion that 11 a side football is becoming less popular? With you living in a country that invented Football, do you feel that Minifootball is winning over the audience step by step?
Participation in Minifootball dwarfs that of the 11 a side game, so many more people play this format and 11 a side is definitely declining, but 11 a side is where the money is, so that keeps it in the spotlight, Minifootball has a long way to go yet, but it’s going in the right direction and is an exciting format.
What would you like to see changed in the next several years?
Minifootball has so much potential, and we need to utilise how many people we have playing it around the world. We need major brands coming onboard and building partnerships that take the sport to the next level.
Would you like to give a message to the other teams?
I’d just like to wish all the other federations the best of luck during these difficult times and I hope that all the teams get to Slovakia and we have an amazing Euros that tops all the previous ones.