I sat down for a chat with Damon Shaw, who’s love and ambition for futsal has brought him to Barcelona where he lives, learnt the language and coaches futsal. He talks me through his journey from seeing an advert online for futsal, to now dedicating his life and coaching an U14 team in the “Division de Honor”, ahead of the Spanish Cup – “Copa de Espana”. His team went all the way to the final in front of 500 fans and an online audience, where they lost to a club known as ‘FCB Barcelona…
My beginnings in futsal.
I did some futebol de salao as a kid at Brazilian Soccer Schools, but little was I to know that 20 years on I’d be friends with the founder Simon Clifford. In Brazil, some football clubs play futsal at the younger ages, so he said why don’t we do that in England. He brought it as a way to train for football and has embedded something into English football.
I saw an ad for the FA Futsal Cup, it was a league in Durham and the winners went to the Finals. But the league didn’t go ahead, so I contacted the FA the next year and started a league in Teesside in 2005. I started the club and the league – if you start something you need to start everything. And that’s how it started. We played in that league and qualified for the FA Futsal Cup. Only the qualifiers, not the finals.
Once I got involved with Teeside University Futsal Club, I saw all these opportunities to go travelling. We went to a Czech Republic tournament, with Dynamo Moscow playing there, a pro team, it was surreal. In just six months before this, we had only played two friendlies, and then all of a sudden we’re lining up with Champions’ League winners. It was a great experience. We lost 11-2, 6-0 and only 5-4 in the last match. We really saw what futsal was in a world wide scale.
Most people start in their village and they don’t really see what’s out there and what futsal is in other places.
University or futsal.
At uni in 2007, I failed my computer animation degree because I put so much into futsal. People said I was stupid – ‘Damon finish your degree’. Would it have helped me? Actually no I don’t think so. I don’t think it would have changed my life. I got a nice student debt out of it, but the whole going to uni experience was valuable anyway, so I don’t regret it.
Then I worked in Middlesbrough, for the local FA, and later for Darlington FC. I was communications officer part time, and did some PR for the local radio station. I was just working to pay my bills and still doing the futsal. I was trying to find something a bit more professional and stable. And I’ve still not found that level where it’s self-sustaining and generating enough income, but it will come.
My girlfriend at the time said Damon why don’t you get a real job. For what? And just not go anywhere with my life. Just work and pay my bills. Work in a shop all my life, great. I’ll have enough money to pay my bills and live, but where am I going to go with that?
Risking it all for futsal.
Darlington FC was the only full time job I’d ever had. In 2009/10, they were in League 2 at the time, in the communications and marketing department. It was a club in trouble, a club that went bust. Everyone lost their job shortly after me – but futsal was my reason!
I got offered a two week role in Libya for an international futsal tournament. Mediterranean Futsal Cup. I asked them for the holidays, and they wouldn’t give it to me. I came back and they let me go. But the club ended a few weeks later. So imagine if I didn’t go to Libya because I wanted to keep my job, and the club went bust anyway. You’ve got to follow what you love; you’ve got to do what you love. If you do something you don’t love, then you’re missing out on a whole life of stuff.
Imagine if I’d got a normal job. Imagine if I’d have stayed at Darlington and not had the experience in Libya.
I got a part time job working in a homeless hostel, then delivering wine three days a week to pay the bills. Then I started doing tours for Australian Vikings and that, along with a few other things allowed me to dedicate more time to futsal. I was doing the tours and trying to grow things into a paid role with an education scholarship at Boro, but we didn’t quite get the intake to go ahead…
The Spanish futsal adventure.
I did the Spain tours as well for Australia, so when I got the offer to move to Spain it made little difference if I was UK based or Spain based, so here I am, now teaching English.
I always knew that at some point in my life, if I wanted to be good and learn futsal, I need to be in Spain to learn from the best. At the same time I wanted to stay in Middlesbrough and make Middlesbrough into a leading club… I needed to be in two places – something had to give.
I took the risk, I had to, and Middlesbrough’s still going – just. There are some good people involved now, but it’s been a struggle to find someone who could put in what I was putting in.
At the time of writing Middlesbrough is going through a struggle with sustaining the academy. They are a few hundred pounds short of a fundraising target to give the club more stability. You can read more and donate here.
I was looking for the opportunity to move to Spain – I always have done, and out of the blue came an off to coach at Vilassar de Mar with Fernandao. He wanted to offer coaching in English so he contacted me to coach several teams in the academy – it didn’t work out – it wasn’t what was promised so I left that club and moved to Barcelona centre and started making inroads into the futsal community here. I spent a month with Catgas Santa Coloma, watching training, chatting to the coaches and then did my “monitor” course (equivalent of level 1 & 2). I waited until the next season to get coaching again. I coached in Hospitalet Bellsport for a season then moved to Catgas, and here I am with the infantil (u-14s), playing in probably the best under-14s league in the World.
I now have my UEFA B and A and am coming to the end of my third season in Spain, each one being an improvement on the last.
Thanks Damon, don’t stop improving and all the best for the next one.
You can follow Damon on twitter @Damon_Shaw