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EXCLUSIVE: Melbourne Victory icon Archie Thompson backs Neymar Jr 5's & country development

The importance of street football's effect on the world game is unquantifiable.

And now, the game that was born in the doldrums has risen to a global platform with the Neymar Jr 5's tournament.

"When you think of street football or 5-a-side and skill, it all started out in South America, especially Brazil," explains Melbourne Victory great Archie Thompson to Tribalfootball.com.

"That's where it's all from. The concept developed from Neymar's upbringing of football and that was on the streets of Brazil and his hometown."

The A-League icon isn't wrong. The tournament's namesake – Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior – has followed in the same footsteps laid before him by other Brazilian greats such as Pele, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, and become the latest exponent of the flair and skill that comes from playing in the streets of Brazil.

The Neymar Jr 5's tournament, sponsored by Red Bull, is continuing to grow at a rapid rate in just it's second year. The competition covers over 50 countries across 6 continents and has attracted over 90,000 players.

The rules follow your simple 5-a-side guidelines, but with a significant twist. Instead of stable teams, each time a team scores a goal, the opposition loses a player. The match has a ten-minute duration unless a team runs out of players.

Not only is the competition fun in itself, the rewards for success are even better.

"The format and the speed of the game, and just the opportunity that some of these younger kids get, not even just young kids but young adults get to play 5-a side football and show your skills," explains Thompson.

"[You] win your final in your respected area and then you can go onto the nationals in Melbourne on June 10 and then you get the opportunity to go to where Neymar grew up and play the street competition there."

"Then when you win, you get the opportunity to meet Neymar and watch a Barcelona game so that's an incentive in itself."

After retiring from an illustrious career with Victory in 2016, Thompson is now an ambassador for the club and has continued playing part time with Victorian NPL side Murray United.

Having grown up around the region, Thompson feels he can use his knowledge and profile to help give back to his community through football.

"It's hard for country players because they don't get the exposure," said Thompson.

"I'm hoping my stint for however long it may be will attract more players down that area and build the competition from there. I'm loving every minute of it."

The 3-time A-League champion believes that initiatives like the Neymar 5's are important for players who may not have had the opportunity to play in front of an audience before.

"I think it's great for amateur footballers to get the opportunity and if I had of known about this a little bit earlier, I might of registered myself!" quipped the 38-year old.

"That's what the beauty of the competition is, a lot of people from regional areas fall through the cracks but these are all opportunities to showcase yourselves, cause you never know who's watching," added Thompson.

Archie will be present at the final of the Victoria/Tasmania leg on May 27 at Knox Regional Centre.

The winner will then have the opportunity to become Oceania champion and book their ticket to Brazil, where they will compete against countries from all over the world.

There are still qualifying rounds open across Australia, so follow the prompts on the Neymar Jr 5's website to enter and give yourself a chance to win.

Andrew Maclean
About the author

Andrew Maclean

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