Rico Zulkarnain is hoping to cap what has been a memorable 12 months with success in the inaugural Futsal Home Nations Championship which gets underway in Cardiff on Friday.
Wales kick off their campaign against Northern Ireland at Cardiff’s House of Sport on Friday (7.30pm) in what promises to be an exciting three-day tournament.
Newport-born Zulkarnain, who was the first professional Futsal player in Wales, has been plying his trade in Australia this year alongside the likes of Brazil’s Falcao and Portugal’s Ricardinho.
And he is hoping that the upcoming Home Nations Championship will be a great end to the year.
HOME NATiONS CHAMPIONSHIP
Friday 2nd December
England v Scotland 16:00
Wales v Northern Ireland 19:30
Saturday 3rd December
Northern Ireland v England 16:00
Wales v Scotland 19:30
Sunday 4th December
Scotland v Northern Ireland 12:00
Wales v England 15:15
“I'm feeling in the best shape of my life going into these fixtures, both mentally and physically, he said. “I've been on a good run of form, scoring lots of goals since my move to Melbourne and I’ll look to take that form into the tournament.
“Those opportunities have given me a taste of what it takes to compete at the highest level and I've built up the confidence to go out and play at an intensity that a lot of these players we’ll be competing against aren’t used to.
“If I can carry on scoring goals and, most importantly, helping gain more exposure for Futsal across the world, especially here in the UK, then I can't ask for much more to round off what has been a big year in 2016.
“It’s great to see all four countries working together and it promises to be a momentous occasion for everyone involved.”
Zulkarnain and his fellow team-mates have faced England on numerous occasions previously, but he admits that Wales will need to be wary of all their opponents across the weekend.
“In Futsal, the scorelines are always tight, so there's no such thing as an easy game,” he said. “From previous fixtures against England we know many of their players and the ability that they have in their squad, but for Northern Ireland and Scotland it's a bit of a guessing game.
“No doubt we will have footage of both teams to analyse and break down, but I'm expecting that all four teams will be wanting to put on a show for what will be a home crowd for us in Wales.”
It is great to see all four countries working together to achieve a common goal, to promote and develop the status of the game in our countries.
Zulkarnain also reserved praise for Wales head coach Richard Gunney, who has been on quite the expedition in recent years since the country’s first Futsal team was founded in late 2011.
“The gaffer has travelled across the world in search of new and extensive knowledge on the game,” he said. “He's also been working hard behind the scenes to make the selection process a fair one by holding training camps across the whole of Wales.
“I think for any player that's competing on the international stage, it's very important to go into these games with both individual and team targets, but my number one priority is to help the team by scoring goals.
“It's no secret that we've got an experienced side, mixed with a few new faces, so for me we have to start producing the results to reflect that and this tournament is the perfect platform to set the tone for the upcoming UEFA Euro qualifiers in January.”
Richard Gunney has selected his Wales squad for the Home Nations Futsal Championship and it is as follows:
Dafydd Jones (Baku Futsal Club)
Lee Jones (Oxford Futsal Club)
Richard Morgan (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Lloyd Jenkins (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Elliot Thomas (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Chris Hugh (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Daniel Hooper (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Simon Prangley (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Jonathan Nelson (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Tyrrell Webbe (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Rhys Williams (Cardiff University Futsal Club)
Naim Arsan (Wrexham Futsal Club)
Chris Bright (Birmingham Tigers Futsal Club)
Connor Rogers (Wrexham Futsal Club)
Adam Hesp (Wrexham Futsal Club)
Warren Hudson (Llandarcy Futsal Club)
Rico Zulkarnain (Fitzroy FC)
* Photo credit: South Wales Argus