Members of the New Zealand futsal community have paid tribute to late Futsal Whites goalkeeper Atta Elayyan with a moving gesture at the FIFA Futsal World Cup™ in Lithuania.
Elayyan had long dreamed of getting to futsal’s biggest stage before he was tragically killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings in March 2019, six months before the OFC Futsal Nations Cup.
Last week Matt Fejos, Brayden Lissington, Fraser Hunter and Mitch Thomasen, who were all connected to Elayyan through futsal, ensured their friend made it to the court in spirit, travelling to the arena in Lithuania to lay an Atta No. 1 jersey in the goalmouth.
“I cried a lot when Elias (Elayyan’s best friend and fellow goalkeeper Elias Billeh) showed me it, but it meant so much to me,” Atta’s widow Farah told FIFA.com of the tribute.
“It gave me that reassurance that it’s not just me and his family that will never forget Atta. He still has a lot of people who love him and remember him.
“I really wasn’t expecting such a tribute. The Futsal World Cup is about the games. And it’s not an event in New Zealand, but a world tournament. To see that people were paying tribute to Atta was beautiful. It was painful to see at the same time, but it was really beautiful.
“I used to take our baby to watch Atta. She doesn’t remember, but I know her presence meant a lot to him. In the future I’ll be able to show her the photos [of the tribute].”
Billeh said it was special to see his friend’s jersey in Lithuania.
“The Futsal World Cup was his number-one goal. We always talked about it. He was doing everything to be there. It’s nice to see that, through the tribute, he was,” Billeh told FIFA.com.
“We have a small futsal community in New Zealand, but we have a bloody strong one. For people, going to a Futsal World Cup should be the big thing. But for them to want to go to continue Atta’s legacy, that’s just awesome.
“Atta was never the guy who wanted the limelight. He was such a positive, enthusiastic person who was always there for others. He had such a big heart for everyone. I think Atta would be looking at it in his own quiet way, really chuffed, thinking ‘These guys are crazy doing this for me’.
“What Matt and Brayden and the lads did for him was awesome. Atta’s legacy continues.”
RIP Atta Mohammed Elayyan.
This story originally appeared on FIFA.com