From a rockstar arrival to the competition on the court, 10 young Queenslanders have gained unforgettable experiences from their ‘Futsal Cultural Tour’ of the Solomon Islands.
The group, seven of which were part of the Queensland Metro U14 Boys team which competed at this year’s FFA Futsal National Championships, spent almost a week learning the local customs and taking part in friendly futsal matches.
Two opponents included the Solomon Islands representative team they met at the FFA Futsal Nationals and the Paramatyr Kings U15s, who have previously participated in the Craig Foster Cup on the Gold Coast.
However, it was the warmth of their hosts and rich cultural experiences that left a lasting impression.
“When we arrived at the airport there was probably 30 or 40 kids there to see us,” explained coach Andrew Greenland.
“Our boys were looking out the window, wondering whether there was a riot on or what the hell was going on. They were climbing the fences. It was just amazing.
“We walked out across the tarmac once we landed in Honiara and everyone was waving at us and yelling at us. We felt like rockstars.
“We walked through the airport and they had a welcoming party there with Polynesian dancers and food and speeches and everyone was there to greet us. It was amazing.”
The trip evolved from the meeting at this year’s Nationals, after which Greenland himself housed much of the touring Solomon Islands team on their subsequent visit to Queensland.
The relationship – boosted by the presence of Solomon Islands players in local competitions – led to an eye-opening opportunity for the 10 young participants drawn from futsal clubs from around South-East Queensland.
“Some of the boys hadn’t travelled overseas or travelled at all. Some of them were away from their parents for the first time,” Greenland said.
“Going to a third world country, they didn’t have a lot. I think the boys really realised how lucky we are in Australia.
“At the end of the tournament they gave away their futsal shoes, shinpads. We already took stuff over there for them, but this was on top of that.
“I’m sure the boys will never forget their experience. They are all keen to go back again.”