Futsal may be the baby among the sports on offer at the Anchor AIMS Games this week but it has quickly made its mark.
Last year the sport featured at AIMS Games for the first time with 20 schools represented. Twelve months later that number has risen to 39 on the back of a major growth in numbers playing the sport.
New Zealand Football decided to make use of the heightened interest at the AIMS Games by scheduling the Trans-Pacific Futsal Cup series between New Zealand and New Caledonia men and women's teams over three nights this week.
The opening international between the Futsal Ferns women and their counterparts from New Caledonia on Tuesday at ASB Baypark Arena was a historic occasion.
The match won in resounding fashion 14-0 by the Futsal Ferns was the first women's futsal international played by the New Zealand team and also the first women's international played in Oceania.
NZ Football futsal manager Kevin Forde said the opening night saw a crowd of 500 enthusiastic AIMS Games competitors watching the two games live.
"It was really well supported which was fantastic. We rolled out the women's team, showcasing for the girls who were here the end of the pathway with which they can potentially reach to represent their country."
Forde said NZ Football was pleased with how quickly futsal had become established at the AIMS Games.
"They are exceptionally happy with the growth of the game they have had within this tournament. You hope to keep growing the game at the same rate year on year until it gets to a point where it plateaus but we are hoping that is not anytime soon.
"We are not only offering the kids their own games but there are activities in the evening where we are giving them something to aspire to. It is the pinnacle of what is currently available in this country for the code."
Futsal has grown by 316 per cent since it began in 2010.
"AIMS nearly doubling its numbers from last year is proof of that. It is fantastic to see so many teams, girls and boys, getting out here and competing and being involved in the game," Forde said.
"All the work over the years is coming to fruition now. We are seeing teams coming from all over the North Island and we want to extend our reach as far as we can across the country so that every kid has an opportunity to play the game."
New Zealand was one of the countries in contention to host the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup, which if successful would be a massive boost to the sport, Forde said.
"It would be the crowning moment for the sport since [NZ Football's] Dave Payne's hard work with the sport since 2010 with the roll-out of the game. Ten years later to cap it off with the world cup across your own country would be great."