Russell Goldstein has described the honour and pride he felt at winning his first cap for the England futsal side.
Donning the three lions shirt for the first time in a double-header against Andorra on Sunday and Monday, he also scored his first goal two minutes into his second appearance and says he hasn’t stopped smiling since.
He said: “The dream every little kid has is to play for England and luckily mine came true. I was so proud to get called up to potentially earn my cap, though knew I’m competing with a lot of great players from England. But when I stepped onto the court and knew I had it, it’s impossible to describe how I felt apart from honoured and proud to play for my country.”
Called up for a training camp at the end of last month, he got the call a week later to confirm his call-up to the playing squad. Describing that moment, he said: “I got a call from an unknown number while in the library. I picked it up and didn’t say anything until the voice said it was Pete (the England manager) saying he wanted to include me in the squad. At that time I was lost for words, I didn’t know what to say, apart from ‘ohh thanks’. It’s like Roy Hodgson giving you a call, in the middle of the day, you just can’t process anything”.
With a range of emotions sweeping before him as kick-off approached, he said: “I had a meeting with the England psychologist who said not to be nervous and gave me some tips. But I was still nervous, excited and apprehensive as Pete said I was going to play. The fact that the game was being screened on Andorran TV only increased the pressure and there were loads of different scenarios running through my head.”
Feeling he gave an ‘average’ performance in the first game, which England won 3-2, he said: “I’m not used to the pace and movement involved at international level, everything looks much easier from the bench. I enjoyed the first game as it made me realise that I can compete at this level.”
The second game saw him come on with two minutes of the first half remaining, and his first touch of the ball resulted in him experiencing one of the most ‘amazing’ moments of his life. As he explains, “I scored at the back post from a corner from a great pass from my teammate Cookie. After the goal I didn’t know what direction to run in, who to look at, do I celebrate at the camera. I’m used to seeing it on TV, but didn’t know what to do. After that I was buzzing, just couldn’t stop smiling. Although, I made a few mistakes in the game but overall I was happy with both mine and the team’s performance and getting the winner in another 3-2 win makes the experience even more amazing.”
His futsal career started after not being selected for the Maccabi GB junior football team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, which led to him turning out for the futsal team at various Maccabi events over the following three years. Captaining the open futsal team to bronze at last year’s Maccabiah, he has now been playing for two years, which sometimes involves training seven times a week, taking in two games. Currently captaining the Loughborough students national league side as well as training full time with the international futsal academy (IFA), he also played a pivotal part in MGB’s debut season in the FA National Futsal League South Division Two last year. Also selected for the European Games in Berlin next summer, he continues to train with the team when down in London.
Now looking ahead to what he hopes to achieve for his country, he says: “My next goal is to get selected for the tournament Euro qualifies in Malta, which are held between 13-18th January. I have a possibility to make the squad, and will find out on Friday if I made it.
“I felt my performances I the two games has made it a hard decision for the coaching staff [not to pick me], yet I’m only 20-years-old, the youngest outfield player in the squad, so I feel I will remain in the set up for a while as I’m always learning and improving.
“My aim is to finish my degree in sports science & management, then get a job while continuing to play futsal. With a lucky break, potentially sign professional, but it’s hard considering the English league does not pay yet, and Spanish and Brazilian players have been playing their whole lives playing in foreign countries. I just need to keep improving and work on a few aspects of my game to take me to the next level.
“I also want to thank everyone who has helped me progress through my journey and given me the opportunities to improve.”