Mansfield Town youngsters Lewis Collins and AJ George have been selected for the England Futsal Under 23s side, we are delighted to announce.
The midfield duo have been called up to the U23s side with a view to becoming the first professional footballers to represent the England Futsal first team.
The excellent facilities at Brooksby Melton College, where our under 21s are based, has allowed our young professionals to take part in Futsal sessions on site, in which Collins and George have excelled.
The pair will link up with the Futsal squad at St George's Park in the coming weeks.
Richard Cooper, senior professional development coach in the Stags' under 21s set-up, has been working towards his Futsal badges for over a year and has explained what has led to the midfield duo being selected for the national side.
"We were told that there were a couple of boys who could cross formats of the game, and AJ and Lewis could possibly be the first two to have a go at it," Cooper said.
"It won't interfere with any of their football with the club – the gaffer [Steve Evans] was brilliant; he said 'yeah, crack on, what a great opportunity'. There is a chance that if it all goes well, they could represent their country at Futsal.
"It's exactly the same as any other sort of international recognition. They'll always train at St George's Park and they'll partake in international games against other countries and things like that. It's a good opportunity for them."
"There is a chance that if it all goes well, they could represent their country at Futsal."
Futsal is a five-a-side game, normally played on an indoor pitch with hockey-sized goals and a size four ball with reduced bounce. It is played to touchlines and all players are free to enter the penalty area and play the ball over head-height.
The excellent technical ability of both Collins, who joined the Stags from Reading in 2016, and former Oxford United man George, is what allows them to shine at Futsal, according to Cooper.
He said: "I think the main thing is it's quite technical. It's very fast-paced, the transitions are fast depending on what the state of the game is but in terms of your receiving of the ball skills, it really does enhance them. For AJ and Lewis, two midfield players, Futsal suits them down to the ground.
"Their ability to deal with the ball in tight situations [allows them to impress at Futsal]. The transitions from losing the ball to winning it back can be so fast and it forces you to make quick decisions, which AJ and Lewis are both very good at."
We will track the Futsal journey of both AJ George and Lewis Collins and keep supporters updated with their progress.