The Hilliard Davidson sophomore hopes to one day play futsal professionally.

There could be a professional futsal future for Audrey Gibson-Zweifel in Europe. Lisbon, to be specific.

This past winter, Gibson-Zweifel traveled to Portugal as a goalkeeper with a U.S. youth national team for a series of matches. Pedro Alves, an official with Sport Lisboa e Benefica, watched her play, was impressed and ambled over to talk to her parents, Becca Zweifel and Tonia Gibson.

“He asked us, ‘So, can she play for Benefica? When can she sign?’” Gibson says. “I said, ‘She’s only 15,’ and he said, ‘Then in three years?’”

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.

Gibson and Zweifel believe Alves was serious. “He asked for our contact information, and we keep in touch,” Zweifel says.

But first, before Gibson-Zweifel can pursue her dream of playing futsal professionally, she has a few things to take care of: high school (she begins her sophomore year at Hilliard Davidson in the fall), college and a few more years traveling the globe with the national team.

“After college, I’ll think about playing futsal in Europe,” she says. “I like futsal so much more than soccer. It’s faster and more fun, and I can score and be more involved in the game.”

Futsal is the indoor version of soccer (or football as it’s called in most of the world). There are five players per side: a goalie, a defender, two midfielders and a forward. It’s faster than “regular” football, with non-stop action up and down the court, incredible ball skills, intricate passing and lots of goals. And yes, the goalies do get to move forward, shoot and sometimes even score.

Futsal began in the urban streets of Uruguay and Brazil. “They don’t have big grass fields over there,” explains Malissa Galiffo Garcia, president of Columbus Futsal. She and her husband, Dante Garcia, a former professional futsal player and the local team’s coach, have helped build futsal in Central Ohio.

“They have concrete over there, and maybe one kid in 20 can afford a ball,” Galiffo Garcia continues. “They all gather around and play and eventually move on to football.” In recent years, futsal has become more popular around the world, with professional leagues taking off and growing. Columbus Futsal’s men’s team plays in Major League Futsal.

Gibson-Zweifel began playing soccer at a young age and gravitated toward the goal. “I like goalie because I like to be in control,” she says. “And, I’m kind of claustrophobic and don’t like to be around a lot of people on the field. I have my space around the goal.”

After watching her in action, it’s obvious Gibson-Zweifel is talented. It starts with her calm presence and ability to see the entire field and make good decisions. She’s skillful with the ball, which is vital for a futsal goalie, and knows how to play the angles and block shots with every part of her body.

“Dante was the one who told me I was good and to try out for the [youth] national team,” Gibson-Zweifel says. “It was kind of scary, but Dante talked to me a few times and told me that I belonged there.”

She travelled to Canada in 2017 and Portugal last year with the youth national team in her age group.

“Sometimes it is not only about skill,” Garcia says. “It’s about character, and she has such a great attitude. She works so hard, loves to play and is willing to put in the work off the court.”

Gibson-Zweifel is maturing as a leader. “She’s a thinker and loves to understand the game and could be a good coach one day,” Gibson says.

“Usually goalies are outgoing and loud,” Zweifel adds. “Audrey’s quiet, but when you get to know her, she has a dry sense of humor … and she’s really protective of her teammates. If someone roughs one of them up, she gives them the stink eye, and if that doesn’t work Audrey will assert her personality.”

Gibson-Zweifel agrees. “I am a little quiet on the field, but I’m working on it.”

While in Portugal, she had the opportunity to meet her idol: Ana Catarina Pereira, the goalie of Sport Lisboa e Benefica and one of the top futsal keepers in the world.

“I started crying,” Gibson-Zweifel says of the meeting. “She joked that she was scared I was coming over to take her job. She gave me an autograph, and now she follows me on Instagram. That’s so awesome and cool.”

***

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.