“It’s been very frantic,” Tzanakes said last week, who turned 20 the day of departure. “I haven’t really thought about it, but you’re representing the whole country, so it’s a massive honour (and) a massive responsibility.”

Tzanakes was chosen as part of a 14-player Australian squad which left for Thailand last Sunday contesting the 17th AFF Futsal Championship.

Like many avid footballers, from a young age Tzanakes played indoor soccer in the summer, when there was no outdoor to play. Something he continues today.

“I loved it and I was good at it,” he said. “Played locally when I was young, I then played for the Mascot Vipers for maybe five or six years, then I moved to Eastern Suburbs Hakoah, (where I have) been for the last two years. 

“I’ve been involved in state teams throughout my teenage years.” In the winter, Tzanakes plays outdoor for St George City in the NPL2 competition.

The selection for this national squad has been unique in the absence of a formal season-long futsal competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead replaced by “a few shortened” competitions.

“Usually there is nationals every year where you can represent your state but there hasn’t been one of those for a couple of years either.”

So, trials were held in NSW, Victoria and Queensland within three weeks of leaving for Thailand. Then the phone call came. 

“I was excited, I thought that this will be a great birthday present… I’m so happy because it’s a massive honour.”

Now Tzanakes – who plays on the flank in futsal – is preparing for a possible debut against Timor Leste on Monday.

Australia will play three matches, in consecutive days, to qualify for the semi-finals, with Myanmar and Vietnam following Timor Leste.

The top three countries at the tournament will qualify for the AFC Futsal Championship in Kuwait later in the year.

Thailand are the defending AFF Champions, winning 15 of the 16 editions, since 2001 and Indonesia being the only nation to buck that trend in 2010.

As a member of the UNSW Elite Athlete Program, timeliness with his studies is key for Tzanakes, especially balancing football commitments 12 months of the year.

“We have Futsal training, we have outdoor training, and I can’t fall behind at uni either,” he said. “I just have to do my work on time and finish it earlier.”

“If I have an exam, as an example, which clashes with one of my football or futsal commitments, (UNSW will help me) get another date.”

This week’s tournament will be Australia’s sixth appearance at the AFF Futsal Championship finishing runners up four times previously (2007, 2013, 2014 and 2015).

Futsalroos Fixture (Group B) | AFF Futsal Championship 2022

April 4, vs Timor Leste, 4.00pm AEST / 1.00pm Local
April 5, vs Myanmar, 2.00pm AEDT / 11.00am Local
April 6, vs Vietnam, 2.00pm AEDT / 11.00am Local
April 8, Semi Finals
April 10, Finals

Shervin Keshavarz ADELI (Football NSW/Enfield Allstars), Jonathan BARZEL (Football NSW/Inner West Magic), Jacob BASDEN (Football NSW/Dural Warriors), Mark BRACKENRIG (Football NSW/Mountain Majik), Robbie EZEKIEL (Football NSW/Eastern Suburbs Hakoah), Daniel FORNITO (Football NSW/Inner West Magic), Wade GIOVENALI (Football NSW/Dural Warriors) Jordan GUERREIRO (Football NSW/Mountain Majik), Anthony HADDAD (Football NSW/Inner West Magic), Dylan NISKI (Football NSW/Inner West Magic), Nicholas RATHJEN (Capital Football/Boomerangs FS), Scott ROGAN (Football Victoria/Fitzroy Futsal Club), Admed SWEEDAN (Football NSW/Dural Warriors), Emmanuel TZANAKES (Football NSW/Eastern Suburbs Hakoah)