Friends, Futsal, Overcoming Cancer – In That Order
Every sport provides the opportunity for
silent sufferers to forget their private burdens.
Every week, Australia’s most talented futsal players represent their clubs in the highest-level of Victorian futsal in the state, Series Futsal Victoria. Every player has a story but none quite like Mohammed Feteiha’s.
One stadium, no home and away fixtures – the perfect recipe for a banded community. The perfect antidote for someone looking to escape, yet the perfect opportunity for vulnerability’s evolution to self-acceptance.
Feteiha has overcome obstacle after obstacle whether on the court or off it, and after winning the battle against bowel cancer in 2020 for the second time, he felt ready to finally take the wheel once again.
“When I beat cancer for the second time, I felt a relief – like everything I’ve just been through meant something. Not being able to enjoy the company of others was hard during the Covid-19 isolation period but that crazy time made me crave the reopening of Futsal Oz. I felt like I was ready and started tirelessly preparing for the new season.”
Feteiha once lived in a constant battle and distracts himself with battles on the court as he was representing the Western Wolves at the elite level of Australian Futsal in 2020/21. His Western Wolves side was coming up as one of the hot commodities in Series Futsal Victoria, with coach Omar Chandab piecing together a squad of outcasts to create an unorthodox side that would threaten an early title challenge. Feteiha was a key part of that narrative.
“My first four games brought the life back into me. My Western Wolves debut, when I was told that my first three games would be against Moreland, Carlton and Fitzroy, I heard people tell me that due to me playing, it would be an easy three points for them all.”
Despite falling to eventual Champions Fitzroy, the Wolves overcame Carlton Heart and then-champions Moreland with Feteiha playing a key role in their efforts.
“I feel like I shut up all my doubters and got a lot of support after the victories. After all I have been through, despite the loss against Fitzroy, I showed that I not only belonged but that I can be the first choice without hesitation.”
Now, for the third time, Feteiha has spent the first half of the year facing another battle with the recurring bowel cancer.
“After my game against Fitzroy, I would again be faced with another cancer battle for the third time – that’s when the wheels fell off. The next three games I was dealing with medicine, therapy and I was in a bad way mentally.”
“I think I was still playing well, but it eventually became too hard for me to continue playing. I had to give up everything I dreamt of and it hurt, but after my final game for the Wolves I felt the love of the futsal oz community. I had so many people in my corner.”
The social media support was limitless. Countless comments and messages that continue to reach out to Feteiha today.
“I felt like I was letting them all down by not playing, but in truth I was an inspiration to them without even knowing it.”
Although the 23-year-old is all-smiles no matter what his physical condition is, Feteiha was overwhelmed with joy after coming back from behind and saving the decisive penalty to overcome bowel cancer again and complete the hattrick. A valuable three points in the long run.
“After three short operations I have beaten cancer again and even though I’m lucky that I am physically healthy and in good condition, I’ve still had to climb that difficult mountain once more.”
The determined Feteiha has overcome mammoth obstacles regarding his own health, but also doubts – from himself and those who surround him.
“One of my lowest points was conceding eight goals to Fitzroy in 2019, and possibly one of the worst goals ever – straight under my foot and into the back of the net. I had a lot of doubters telling me I wasn’t ready for the SFV and that I should just stop playing. “
Although he had his low points, in 2019 Feteiha made a move to a top side in Pascoe Vale, but knew going into it he would be the second choice in his position.
“I finally had a chance when the starting goalkeeping unfortunately suffered a serious injury, but even then, I was overlooked and demoted back to the bench with the club signing a new goalkeeper.”
“I used this experience to motivate myself.”
When times got tough, whether it was battling cancer, battling insecurities, or battling doubters, Feteiha had the motivation to come out stronger. Early in the 2021 season you could find Feteiha not only returning to the court in Richmond FC colours, but you could also find him behind the Futsal Oz counter or barring a whistle as he maintained his crucial role in his beloved community.
Nick-named “Moey”, the Futsal Oz staff member is one of the friendly and welcoming faces you’ll find at the counter at either centre in Thomastown or Brunswick as he almost forces his contagious positivity upon you by always being there. Always smiling, always happy and open to motivate and inspire others to continue kicking goals, whether it’s in the bottom social division or at an elite level, Moey just wants to have an impact.
“It’s the most rewarding experience I’ve had. Working at the counter, knowing so many of my friends meet there and seeing all the friendly people that I can have a connection with socially is something I won’t be able to replace anywhere.”
It will be quite some time until Feteiha makes his way onto a futsal court again as he faces chemotherapy to overcome his fourth and final battle with cancer. Mere weeks after the completion of this interview, the cancer had returned for the fourth time. Nevertheless, Feteiha is ensuring that this will be the last time bowel cancer interferes with his health again as he undertakes the most severe treatment he has had so far.
To say that it is people like Feteiha that have this impact on the futsal community would be wrong, as it is people like Feteiha that stand alone as a single inspiration of any person that suffers in silence or exposes their battles. It is the strengthening of the vulnerable every time he steps onto the court and he will ensure that he will be stepping on the court once again.