Special feature: Getting to know Futsal Whites captain Dylan Manickum

Doctors are, surveys say, one of the very last professions you should date if spending time with your partner is paramount. They work extensive, incommodious hours and, furthermore, invariably take tasks home with them.

Dylan Manickum doesn’t get to pass many hours with the girlfriend he met many moons ago. He says Zoe Wells works “really long hours” as a doctor, and yet he knows — a guilty grin acting as vindication — he’s the chief offender.

The 31-year-old spends his weekdays in steel-toed boots, a hi-vis jacket and a hard hat, working from early morning to late afternoon as an assistant engineer on a construction site. He rushes from the day job straight to the evening one, where he trains or coaches five nights a week — and in multiple sports.

Manickum is an 11-a-side winger for Oceania’s champion club Auckland City; he captains the same club and the New Zealand national team at futsal; and he teaches kids at both disciplines.

Wellington Olympic’s Jack-Henry Sinclair and Auckland City’s Dylan Manickum challenge for the ball during the 2023 Men’s National League grand final. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

His weekends are dominated by matches on pitches or courts.

Then Zoe has to deal with the trips away. Dylan’s latest was a little further than to Christchurch or Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island for a domestic game, or to Fiji, New Caledonia or Vanuatu, where he has played in the OFC Champions League. It was 15,500 kilometres to Jeddah for the FIFA Club World Cup.

It was worth it. While some players bound for this year’s FIFA Futsal World Cup are able to say they shared a court with the great Ricardinho, and fewer with the immortal Falcao, Manickum can boast of sharing grass with N’Golo Kante and Karim Benzema.

Main photo: Dylan Manickum … versatile, multi-talented and very, very busy.Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

One-to-one with Dylan Manickum

In this special feature, Dylan Manickum talked to FIFA about that Saudi Arabia 2023 experience, his Uzbekistan 2024 hopes, the Futsal Whites’ emergence and his uber-hectic lifestyle …

FIFA: How did it feel to share a pitch with Fabinho, N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema and Co at the FIFA Club World Cup?

Dylan Manickum: Unbelievable. They’re superstars of the game. You dream of playing against the best players, but you never think you’re going to play against someone of the calibre of Benzema. It was a real honour. We wanted to get a result, we held them for a bit, but they were just too good. Still, the experience was something I’ll always remember. The accommodation, the facilities, the flights… everything was world-class. We don’t usually get that here in New Zealand. We also all get on really well. It was really nice to be around the fellas.

Auckland City’s Dylan Manickum playing at the FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia against the star-studded Al Ittihad. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

You’re a big fan of Fabinho’s former team…

My dad supports Liverpool, so I was brought up supporting Liverpool, watching Michael Owen. It made me want to be a striker growing up. I’ve deviated to the wing. But Michael Owen, Stevie G (Gerrard) and all those legends made me fall in love with football. I still try and get up early for the games when I can and it doesn’t impact work too much (laughs).

How did it feel to lose on penalties to the Solomon Islands and miss out on a place at the last FIFA Futsal World Cup?

Heart-wrenching. We worked really hard for a long time to reach the World Cup. We were in a good position with one-and-a-half minutes left on the clock. I guess that’s the beauty of futsal – the game’s never really over. But on that occasion we were the ones who suffered. It really, really hurt. It took a lot of time to get over.

Your former team-mate, Atta Elayyan, whose dream it was to play in the Futsal World Cup, was tragically killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019. What did you think of the tribute your team-mates made to him in Lithuania?

It was a great way to remember him. He was a massive part of the team. In the last qualifiers and these qualifiers, he was right there with us. We still all talk about him. He was my room-mate at one point. It was a big loss for futsal in this region. He was involved in youth futsal too. He was a great fella, a great goalkeeper. It was unbelievably sad. I don’t think anyone’s really got over it.

New Zealand’s Dylan Manickum breaks the record for appearances for the Futsal Whites during the 2023 OFC Futsal Nations Cup. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Going into the Uzbekistan 2024 qualifiers, you were one off equaling Marvin Eakins’ caps’ record for the Futsal Whites. Were you worried he’d stop picking you to hold on to it?

(laughs) Marvin was the captain when I first came into the team. We have a good relationship. It was a great feeling to get the record. It means that you’ve been involved a long time and that you’ve kept playing at the highest level this country has to offer. Marvin was pleased for me. It was an amazing feeling.

How did it feel to beat Tahiti 5-0 in the OFC Futsal Nations Cup and finally qualify for the Futsal World Cup for the first time?

It was one of the best feelings of my life. It was really emotional. It means a lot to everyone involved, but a few of the senior boys – I was four campaigns, Steve [Ashby-Peckham] was three – have put in a lot of big shifts to get us to where we are now, so it’s hard to put into words what it means. Futsal’s in a great place in New Zealand looking forward.

What can New Zealand achieve at Uzbekistan 2024?

We’re not going there for a muck about. We can be competitive. We’ve seen what the Solomons have done over the years. The standard of futsal has progressively got better in Oceania over the last 10 years. There’s no reason we can’t get a win or two.

New Zealand’s Logan Wisnewski celebrates a goal at the 2023 OFC Futsal Nations Cup with his skipper. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Do you also take inspiration from the All Whites’ performances at South Africa 2010?

We all take massive inspiration from it. They proved with football – and it’s the same with futsal – that anything is possible. You can be the underdogs and get results. It was massive for New Zealand. I remember getting up at 4:30am to watch the games. It meant a lot to us. The players that were there in 2010 put in a massive shift to get the three results they got on the world stage. I think we’re quite similar to that group of players in that we all work really hard and we all get on really well, we have that unity. I think this World Cup can be our 2010, our opportunity to get young kids involved in futsal, get the whole country involved. We’ve got great support behind us – families, coaches. We had a great crowd for the Nations Cup final. If we can get some good results, do the country proud, the region proud, I’m sure it will help grow the sport in New Zealand and Oceania.

Other than yourself, which New Zealanders should we look out for in Uzbekistan?

There’s a few. We have a lot of talent. Logan Wisnewski, Jordie Ditfort, Adam Paulsen, Hamish Grey, Ethan Martin. I could probably go through the whole squad. Logan and Jordie, they’re playing in England, they’re doing good things over there, they’ve played Champions League qualifiers. Adam and Hamish are two of the most talented young players in the country. Hamish was overseas playing pro. I think all those boys could do big things. This World Cup will be a big opportunity for them.

Can you tell us about your typical day?

I work for an engineering company. I’m an assistant site engineer. We do mostly boltworks. I help out the site manager and site engineer with the quality assurance stuff most of the time. Someone from the football club helped me out with the job actually. I’m generally there from seven, eight in the morning till four in the afternoon. They’re pretty good with me, so I can get straight to training from work on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday and Friday I’ve got coaching. On Saturday we usually have a game. If it’s on a Sunday, we have training on the Saturday as well. That’s pretty much my week – seven in the morning till eight-thirty at night before I get home. The futsal national league runs from February to April. It’s during our pre-season for football. I’m quite lucky. Our coach at Auckland is great, very supportive of me playing futsal. I do two futsal training sessions a week. I sometimes have to miss football for futsal at crunch times. Then for the rest of the year we have double-training sessions on a weekend every second week. We have a few games and tours as well.

Do you get stick for it from your partner?

(laughs) Quite often! Every time she sees a trip away, she’s not very happy. She sees it as me going away with the fellas, my mates, having a great time off work. Obviously we’re working and training when we’re away as well, but there’s still a lot of downtime. She’s a doctor, so she doesn’t get that much time off work. Me being away a lot grinds the gears a bit. But I think deep down she gets it and knows it won’t last forever.

Dylan Manickum … ready to lead New Zealand on the world stage. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Acknowledgement

This interview with Dylan Manickum was first published by FIFA.com and is republished with permission.

2024 FIFA Futsal World Cup

VIDEO: Preparations underway as Futsal Whites plan for first World Cup >>>>

READ MORE: Futsal Whites heading to FIFA Futsal World Cup for first time after beating Tahiti >>>>

VIDEO: How the Futsal Whites got to the World Cup — every game, every goal >>>>

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