One of AKU FC's foundation members, Hiep (affectionally known as Heppa) has become a key part in the club's progress from the cellars of League 3 to the State League Championship. More importantly, he has helped shaped the culture and ethos through his emphasis on community and "giving back"....
AKU: Heppa, you signed up to AKU FC before we were even a team, but a concept and a project at the time. What did you like about the Melbourne AKU FC project and what made you join?
Hiep: First off its been an amazing couple of seasons here with Melbourne AKU. There have been many highs and many lows with all of this being an extremely valuable experience. The project itself was always focus on giving back to the community and creating a pathway for all levels of futsal players to have an opportunity to participate in a semi pro/ elite environment. This was what interested me and drew me to be part of this journey.
AKU: You've been in the Victorian futsal scene for a long time, playing in the elite leagues, in national leagues and travelling internationally, what made you want to give back to future generations and how did you think Melbourne AKU could help deliver that?
Hiep: I’ve been super fortunate to have played with and against some amazing players over the years. I’ve always been an advocate of giving back and thats not just with futsal but with everything in life. I believe if we have the opportunity to coach and educate the next generation to be better futsal players and better individuals then it is our duty to do so.
Melbourne AKU is formed by like minded individuals who didn’t quite have the support network growing up in Australia as futsal players. They have become great futsal players because of the love of the game and the mindset of wanting to be better players but always lacking that support/opportunity or a clear pathway to really thrive.
These limited opportunities and a glass ceiling mentally is the driving motivation for Melbourne AKU and its playing group to produce the next superstars of futsal players in Australia. No bias, no politics just creating a harmonious environment for people who love this sport to excel.
AKU: What have been some highlights of your time here so far?
Creating something from nothing is always exciting. This club was created by Ruz and Kui from a general conversation about futsal and how there is no link from social standards to elite standards. From this a futsal club was formed and we are currently challenging for a spot in the top Division with Futsal Oz.
Seeing this club grow from strength to strength each season and having it become like a family. Recruiting great players and also great people. Seeing the team get together and enjoy each other's company away from the game is also something Ive really enjoyed about this journey. Seeing that this team is so diverse now with different backgrounds and culture.
AKU: There's a strong community within the players, family, friends and fans outside of the futsal court. Tell us a little bit about that and why you think that's important?
Hiep: Melbourne AKU's vision is all about community and unity and a family friendly culture.
We are all futsal players but we are great mates first and foremost. We have all seen each other grow from young adults to grown men (But not all act like grown men though!). Boys are becoming fathers now. So because of this camaraderie I feel this club is like a family. We have dinners together and have regular outings and activities that are not futsal focused. We lend support to each other for all problems in life not just futsal related. It’s crucial to maintain this culture because we want to promote a welcoming environment for all levels of futsal players and from different backgrounds who wants to be a part of Melbourne AKU.
AKU: What’s your goals for AKU both on and off the court?
Hiep: My goal is to see AKU FC competing in the highest level of Futsal. To be a competitive team in these elite leagues and play national tournaments and cups. We also want to help provide opportunities for players to have a pathway to national selection.
Outside of futsal i want to Melbourne AKU to be a leader in promoting Futsal at a grassroots level through partnerships with outdoor teams and schools, similar to our joint program with Mazenod FC last year.
AKU as a brand have expanded into Thailand and Japan. So if we are to explore options to have a sister club within one of these countries that would be a major step to promote futsal in Australia.
AKU: Thanks for being a big part of the club, and final words?
Hiep: This is only the beginning. Slow and steady wins the race.
Its been an amazing journey so far but it is just the tip of the iceberg for Melbourner AKU.
I would like to thank the AKU team, especially Ruz and Kui for giving us the opportunity to be apart of this team. They have provided the facilities and resources for us players to feel like we are apart of a semipro/pro futsal club!