A TEESSIDE graduate is looking forward to leading the English futsal charge as the side targets the next World Cup.
Ben Mortlock is currently the Captain of the England Futsal national side and has been in the fold since 2008.
The former Teesside University student has had a long history with the sport.
Ben started playing futsal in a Sunday League team in Grimsby.
He took his love for the sport to Teesside University, joining the Middlesbrough Futsal Club set up the year he first began studying there in 2005.
Ben is very grateful to not only the university but also Damon Shaw, owner of the team, for helping him take his talents to new heights.
Ben said: “They put the funding in when we needed it and the university campus and facilities were integral, because it was perfect for our sports playing there.”
In 2006, he went to trials for the Great Britain University team to take part in the World Universities Futsal Championship in Poland.
When Ben left Teesside in 2008, Ben got into the England set up along with fellow Middlesbrough Futsal player Curtis Holmes.
Ben now currently leads the charge as captain and is grateful to have the support of the club and manager Peter Sturgess.
Ben said: “It’s an amazing thing to be able to captain your country.
“The most valuable thing for me is the faith the manager has got in me after I’ve played for him for seven years and the players have been very supportive.
“I find it more important the fact the lads and the manager have got a lot of respect for me and obviously to lead your country is amazing.”
Ben and the rest of the team have just competed in the qualifying preliminary rounds of the UEFA Futsal European Championships in Malta.
The team went unbeaten for the last eight games in the tournament, but went out on goal difference to the eventual group winners Latvia.
Ben said it was disappointing to go out in that manner, especially having ended the campaign on such a high.
Ben said: “To go out in goal difference is disappointing but when you get the better end of the fustal tournaments, you need to be a bit more clinical and we didn’t do enough.”
England are now looking forward to the 2016 Futsal World Cup as the preliminary rounds start later this year.
Ben is relishing the preliminaries and welcomes any and all competition on the road to the finals in Colombia.
Ben said: “We don’t mind who we play and to be honest, we’re not really afraid of anyone.
“There are a few teams like France that we’d like to avoid in the draw for the preliminaries but this our chance to make people take notice.”
Ben believes that the sport has grown in popularity in the UK over the last few years, particularly in the North-East.
With the likes of the Middlesbrough Futsal club, the options are there for people to get into the sport.
He advises those in the region to make use of the growing futsal scene in Teesside, with plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Ben said: “In Middlesbrough, futsal’s really quite big.
“It’s a great place to get involved in futsal, there’s a lot going on and I think there’s a couple of local leagues and the facilities at Teesside are great for it.
“There’s also places you can play around the area and get involved with so students of Teesside, Middlesbrough is a great place to get started.”