Meet the New Premier League Player With 25 England Caps ... at Futsal

Meet the New Premier League Player With 25 England Caps ... at Futsal

Saturday, 8 September, 2018 - 07:15
Max Kilman (left) congratulates Niall Ennis after his goal for Wolves reserves against West Brom at New Bucks Head Stadium Telford. Photograph: Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images
London - Chris Evans
Max Kilman is an England international who could walk down any busy high street in the country without turning a single head. Yet the 21-year-old left-back has 25 caps and has already played a starring role for England in two epic tussles with Germany. But after moving from National League side Maidenhead United to Wolves on deadline day, he might have to call time on his international career.

It might sound like the implausible career of a Football Manager regen suffering from a bizarre in-game glitch, but Kilman’s story is real. The only catch is that his international honours are not from football: he’s part of England’s futsal squad. Or at least he was until his move to Molineux.

“I don’t think I’ll have any time to do futsal now because I’ll be training with Wolves every day,” says Kilman. “I want to try to organise something so I can still play for England, but it’s difficult and I’m not sure it’ll happen. Of course I’m going to be upset if that does happen, but it’s a risk I have to take to become a professional footballer.”

Kilman may become one of England’s youngest international retirees when he gives up futsal for football, but his story could have been very different. Only three years ago, when Kilman was on loan from Maidenhead at seventh-tier Marlow, he knew one of the sports would have to give and considered jacking in football to chase the professional dream in futsal.

“When I was 18 and first in the England futsal team, I was definitely considering going abroad to become professional,” he says. “Football maybe wasn’t going as well for me and wasn’t heading anywhere, so I was considering it. I was playing for Maidenhead’s youth team and slowly broke through, but when I did get into the first team, I was sent on loan two leagues below. It was difficult and a long process.

“It was a bit physical [at Marlow] and, while it was enjoyable, I was starting to wonder where my football career was going to go. That’s why I was even more willing to play futsal.”

With futsal still relatively low-profile in England, Kilman would have struggled to make a living from the sport in his homeland and would probably have had to follow the lead of England team-mates who moved to the continent to play in Italy or Croatia. Instead he kept plugging away at both, often turning out for Maidenhead on a Saturday before a game of futsal for London Helvécia on a Sunday.

Juggling the two was a challenge and Kilman was forced to miss occasional matches or training sessions depending on different priorities. The two sports require different skills, so did he ever mix them up? “No, I could do it all right,” he says. “I learned quite quickly and adapted to both. Some people might not be able to play the other sport or take a while to swap, but I did it quite quickly, which was lucky. There’s a bit of transition, but you need to know what you have to do.

“It’s mainly remembering what you need to do the job. It’s about thinking ‘OK, now I’m playing futsal, I need to make more movements off the ball.’ But in football you’re in one position, so you don’t pass and move in the same way. In futsal, you need to constantly keep moving and realise you need to be a bit more forward-thinking.

“Futsal helps with football quite a lot. Everybody thinks it’s all about making you better controlling the ball, but it’s about being more aware, more comfortable on the ball and making better decisions. It helps because it’s really fast and the area is much smaller. So, when I came back to football, I was more confident to get the ball from throw-ins, in more tight areas and I felt like I had way more space when I got on a bigger pitch again.”Kilman believes playing futsal helped him progress as a footballer – and, ironically, hone the skills that led to Wolves signing him and effectively ending his futsal career. Even if Kilman never sets foot on a futsal court again, he is adamant that more children should use the sport as a breeding ground, just as he did. It’s widespread in other countries – including leading football nations such as Spain, Brazil and Portugal – yet futsal struggles to be taken seriously in England, as is highlighted by the Three Lions’ lowly world ranking of 52 – behind football minnows Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and the Solomon Islands.

“It’s very different playing futsal in England because there’s much less exposure,” Kilman explains. “I don’t think people care as much [about being an England futsal international] as if I was playing in Brazil or Spain, but it’s starting to get better in England. The main thing for England is to get children playing a younger age so they can be better on the ball and make better decisions. It’s very difficult to say what England needs to do, but the kids in Brazil and Spain are playing it as their first sport, [before] making a decision as teenagers to make the transition to football or stick with it.“It’s always difficult over here because every time you look on the internet or social media, you always see football highlights and very rarely futsal. And for 10 or 11-year-olds, it’d be good to be promoting more futsal pages with clips of nice goals or tricks. It’s weird because futsal is more exciting than football; in futsal, each team makes about 30 chances a game at least, whereas in football you might only see one shot on target for the whole half.”

Kilman’s futsal career is currently on hold but his recent transfer might be a step towards becoming a double international in the future. If he is ever capped for England’s football team, he is guaranteed to turn a few heads while walking down the street.


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