A MANCHESTER youngster is hoping to lead Northern Ireland to glory — in futsal.
Danny Stapleton, a former Manchester King David High School pupil, qualifies for the province because his father, Liam, hails from the town of Newry.
Danny attended a Northern Irish training camp on Sunday and is now waiting to see if he will be picked for the team’s inaugural home game against Scotland in two weeks.
Danny, who works in sales, told Sportsworld: “I had messaged someone from Northern Ireland, asking them what they needed in the way of eligibility.
“I had been in the England futsal set up since I was 16, but I just felt that I would have more of a chance to play regular international futsal with Northern Ireland. It is exciting.”
Danny took part in trials to play football at the Maccabiah Games at the age of 15.
He wasn’t chosen, but was asked if he would like to play futsal — and he hasn’t looked back.
Now 21, Danny captained Team GB’s futsal side to gold at the European Maccabi Games in 2015 and was also part of the team which claimed silver at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Danny, whose parents, Laura and Liam, live in Whitefield, also spent time in the Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Crewe Alexandra football academies and, last season, turned out for semi-professional teams Molesey FC and 1874 Northwich.
Football icons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Brazilian superstar Neymar and Spanish legend Xavi all have roots in the futsal system.
Danny, who also plays for Manchester Futsal Club, explained: “There is a smaller ball in futsal; there are five players per team; and you play to the lines.
“It improves your first touch and gives you confidence on the ball.
“The skills you learn are definitely transferable on to the football pitch.”