Kris Ukpataujaq of Rankin Inlet was over the moon when he found out he was one of 20 players invited to a Team Canada national futsal evaluation camp in Gatineau, Que., earlier this month.Ukpataujaq, 26, became the first futsal player from Nunavut to be invited to a national camp and he hopes to pass on what he learned to up-and-coming players in his home community.
“We’re on the right track to improve our program in Rankin and I really want to help make that happen,” he said.
The players who attended the camp were selected during a 2017 national qualifying tournament in Kingston, Ont.
Team Canada picked a 20-player all-star team from the qualifying tournament to attend the evaluation camp and further their skills from there.
“I was surprised to be selected, but then I had a meeting over the phone with them and the coach (Kyt Selaidopoulos) told me what to expect, so I started to get more comfortable then,” said Ukpataujaq.
Kyriakos (Kyt) Selaidopoulos was appointed as Canada Soccer’s national futsal coach for CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) and FIFA competitions in 2016.
At the time of his appointment, Selaidopoulos was a former national futsal player who represented Canada in CONCACAF competitions in both 2013-14 and 2012.
He also represented Canada in beach soccer, including the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.
Ukpataujaq said the national camp was at a very high level and quite intense.
He had to learn and adapt to a whole new system of play that he was totally unfamiliar with, he said.
“The camp was a real eye-opener as to how Team Canada uses its offensive and defensive systems and, also, how to shut those systems down if you’re playing against them,” he said. “They taught me how to come back to Rankin and try to pass on what I learned to help our senior team improve and start coaching the younger generation.
“I’m not sure how our guys will react to a new way of playing – if they start to learn Team Canada’s system or not – but in my mind, a team has to be able to play an effective system to be successful.
“Our Rankin team plays a more run-and-gun style but everyone is on the same page with a system and, when you see play at the highest level, you see it’s far more tactical and structured.”
Ukpataujaq said he doesn’t know where he was ranked at the evaluation camp, but he adjusted to the new system fairly quickly.
He said he’s waiting for an email to arrive to know what comes next.
“I’m honestly not sure if the players at the camp are all going to be on one team to compete, or if there will be cuts.
“I guess I’ll find out in the email.”
Ukpataujaq said the camp really got him revved-up and he wants to start helping a new generation of players learn how to play better.
Unfortunately, he has another hurdle in his path before he can restart his futsal coaching career.
“Our guys are all starting to get a little older, so it’s time to start focusing on the younger kids now,” said Ukpataujaq.
“I coached once five years ago and took Rankin’s U15 boys to Whale Cove, where we won the tournament, winning 1-0 in the final game of our season, but I couldn’t go back the following year because I started work at the camp (Meliadine).
“I wasn’t picked to coach this year before I left for the evaluation camp – which I don’t understand because I had said I really wanted to – even though I moved back to town to work so I could. So I guess I have to start over. I’m trying to find out what I have to do.”