In early July 2018, Boomerangs player, Elie Darwich headed off to Lebanon at the invitation of the local futsal hierarchy, to try his hand at representing Lebanon at the AFC U20s Futsal Championships to be held in early 2019, as well as to participate in the Alfa League, the top tier of open men’s futsal in Lebanon.
Elie has kindly agreed to provide us with blog entries of his journey…
Blog Entry #1 – 11 August 2018
My futsal journey so far…
When I started this journey, I was feeling a range of emotions.
I haven’t left home for this long before so I was feeling sad, but going to my dad’s home village and country to represent them in futsal made up for it. I was confident in myself, thinking I knew what to expect.
I had one light training session in front of the national team coach and I think he was impressed, to say the least. I signed my contract with the national team the week later as well as getting offered a position in a newly promoted national league team.
Becoming a ‘Professional’
So on the same day, I signed two professional contracts – two more than I’ve ever signed before. It was a very weird feeling, partly because the contract was written in Arabic and I didn’t understand it, so I didn’t know what I was signing up to for the next year. But I had my uncle to help me read it and I trust him. I was also feeling proud that I’ve achieved something quite special in my eyes.
My first month in Lebanon, I kept fit doing runs nearly every morning and played local mini football derbies in the village with my close friends. Speaking of friends, they treat me so well, much more than I deserve and I am forever grateful for that. I also stayed busy joining a scout group in the village and working with kids of all ages up to 14 leading them in games and activities as well as some life skills.
Training with the U20’s national team starts in September but training with the league team has already started (in early August).
My first official training session in Lebanon.
Beforehand I was feeling confident yet the sweat on my body told a different story. It’s a 2-3 hour drive to the training ground from my village. We stopped halfway to get some food (full roasted chicken) and we then continued our drive. This reminded me of the Sutton Forest stops on the way to Sydney!
When I got there – I was the first one to arrive – I walked through and saw the training court (which is also our match day court) for the first time. The whole venue fits around 400-500 spectators I’d say so it wasn’t a small venue. Players started rocking up slowly and before you knew it, there were 21 players ready for the first session.
Looking at each player before training has even started, my confidence dropped a little and the nerves built up. All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to expect. You can tell if a player is good or not by the way they present themselves off the court, I certainly had some self-doubt creeping in.
The training session was no different to training in Australia — however, it’s just 1000% more intense. That first session reminded me of my first F-League game in 2016. It’s that same intensity they have at training. Your decision making, the positions you take, the passes you make, shots you take, all had to be perfect – as if you’re playing a final. Literally everything! Not to mention this was in what felt like 40-degree heat with no air conditioning. There were a couple of past and present national Lebanese team players also in the team so that was something else I had sitting in the back of my head.
I think it’s safe to say I trained okay, definitely not my best though, which I felt was understandable because it was my first training session with a new team, and I felt I was out of my playing comfort zone somewhat. Also, the fact that I felt the need to throw up every break we had (thanks to the heat and that roast chicken an hour earlier).
There isn’t really a language barrier but I need to get used to and understand some words they say in terms of futsal terminology in Arabic. At the end of the day, I knew where the benchmark for them was and if you can describe it in words I’d say it was like “treat every session as it’s the final and you’re life depended on it.” Well, that’s what it felt like.
Training session 2 – lessons learnt
Skip a day and I had my next training session with the team. Same build up coming to the session, except this time I did not have that roasted chicken! Also, I was feeling more confident because I now knew what the intensity would be like as well as some familiarity with the players.
Without going into too much detail, this session was pretty much the same as the first session in terms of intensity. I feel like this will be the way it is for the whole season. This time, however, I was much more relaxed, comfortable and confident. I was playing my own game, moving around freely and limiting every small mistake I make. Those who know me, I’m very competitive in everything I do. It just keeps me going and striving for greatness and higher achievements in life.
I didn’t want to turn it into a competition of course, but I felt like I was the best player that night. Although sometimes I forget at the end that it’s just training, I was very proud of how I trained, and I know that I need to continue the same way for the rest of the season. It was only after the session I had what I think was a very well deserved roasted chicken!
Training sessions – more lessons
One thing I’ve already learnt playing in Lebanon is you don’t joke around at training. Something for the kids (training for Boomerangs), whether it’s a 5-metre pass or a far post tap-in, do it as you would in a game; because that is the only way you’re going to improve yourself. There is no point taking a shortcut and going easy on yourself. Who’s that going to help? Certainly not you because once you step on the court on match day, you’re going to be caught out in terms of intensity because you didn’t work at 100% of your ability in training. Don’t take shortcuts. Train as if you’re playing a match. That’s the only way you’re going to improve.
I’ll be following the Boomerangs season closely, every week and will be getting game by game updates (sorry Nick). One thing I miss for sure is that family feeling a club like the Boomerang has across all its teams.
Till next time – Elie