Football NSW had the pleasure of catching up with Australia’s sole representative at this year’s 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup, leading referee Ryan Shepheard in Lithuania, and asked the 44-year-old his thoughts on the tournament itself, how he got there and the possibility of having the sport of Futsal represented at the 2023 Olympic Games in Brisbane.
MS: How did you feel getting the call up for the WC and being the only Aussie set to represent in Lithuania?
RS: Being selected for the World Cup in Lithuania is a significant honour and one that I’m very grateful for receiving. Having the opportunity to referee the top futsal nations in the world will certainly be a memorable experience.
Representing Australia, and being only one of eight referees from Asia, is very satisfying but also comes with a high level of expectation to perform on match day.
MS: When did you depart?
RS: I departed Sydney on the 31st of August to head to Lithuania with transits through Qatar and Poland. The match officials needed to arrive on the 1st of September for ten days of pre-tournament preparation.
MS: Is this your first FIFA Futsal World Cup?
RS: This is my first FIFA Futsal World Cup, and I am proud to join a long list of previous Australian referees at this level. Australia has a successful history in having a Futsal referee at consecutive World Cups.
MS: Which matches are you in charge of?
The matches will be played from three venues starting on the 12th of September. Match appointments will be announced a couple of days prior to each game.
MS: How long have you been a referee?
RS: I have been a futsal referee from 2007 and been on the FIFA list for 13 years. This includes 12 years on the AFC elite panel.
I have been a football referee for 28 years.
MS: Which branch did you come from?
RS: I’m a representative of the NSW Futsal Referee Association.
In football I’ve been a member from age 16 with the Manly Warringah Football Referees Association.
MS: What is your day to day job?
RS: I’m a school principal at the Narrabeen North Public School.
MS: Finally, There’s a push for Futsal to be included at the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane, thoughts?
RS: Futsal is a game that would be highly entertaining with the speed and skill of the players.
I think it would be well supported by spectators given the popularity of Futsal, football and other small sided games.
MS: Thanks for your time Ryan, all the best with the tournament.
RS: Thanks for reaching out Mark.