Futsal is growing worldwide unsurprisingly given its positive influence on football, more countries than ever are playing the sport, with FIFA describing it as the “fastest growing indoor sport in the world.”
Futsal is commonly regarded as the reason English footballers lack the technique and aptitude of their South American and even European counterparts. Its a game suited to quick possession passing, there is an emphasis on creativity and flair which would convince a lot of people that futsal is a game for the hipster. Well, that intertwined with the fact that it isn’t played by the masses here yet. For some reason having reached the shores of England officially in 2003, the game hasn’t really caught on as first anticipated. But this could all be about to change if futsal is introduced to the 2020 Olympics, having disappointingly already been announced that futsal wont feature at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The game itself was established in Uruguay in 1930 and the rules are simple. It’s 5-a-side, the ball is slightly smaller with less bounce, the goals are hockey goals and the dimensions of the pitch are small to say the least. To create a constant style of play, there are only “kick ins” rather than throw ins, players and goalkeepers have to take these within four seconds. There is a strict policy on slide tackles but other than that any normal physical contact between players is fine. The rules set the scene for a battle of technical ability and craft, the lack of space means that players have to be intelligent with possession, which encourages dribbling round the opposition or promotes the player to envision a creative pass they wouldn’t usually play in any average game of football. Its a game that constantly has the players involved and touching the ball. The sport is commonly perceived as a training tool for youth players but due to the growth in it globally, there are now professional leagues and international competition.
The nations that excel at futsal start playing at a young age, in a lot of cases all they do is play futsal and don’t actually play 11 a side until after the age of ten. The top three futsal teams in the world are Brazil, Spain and Italy. Brazil have been a dominant force in 11 a side football for years. Spain, the current world champions faced Italy in the finals of the Euro’s in the summer just gone. Could it be that playing futsal from a young age has honed these footballers technique making them the greats of our generation? There seems to be a correlation between futsal and success in football.
The sport comes with its own seal of approval and is endorsed by the biggest and best footballers in the world; Messi and Ronaldo recognise how futsal has contributed to making them the well rounded players they are today. David Villa played until the age of nine, such is the way in Spain and he still plays with friends now. Villa says “Futsal is a bit more technical than football. I also think that because you play a shorter amount of time, there are different physical requirements, because you need to run constantly.” In fact the style in which Barcelona play has drawn comparisons to futsal, Villa accepts this observation, “especially when when attacking with all those short passes between many players, handling the ball well and keeping a lot of possession.” Falcao, not the long haired Columbian who leads the line for Athletico Madrid and is setting La Liga on fire with his goalscoring, but Brazilian Falcao, a legend of the game, recently scored a goal that made its way on to footballing websites around the world. It can only be described as an audacious flick from a laid off free kick, much to the astonishment of the players around him. This type of publicity will only help the sport to grow.
Doug Reed plays futsal for the England national team, he plays his club futsal for a team in Serbia as there he gets a professional contract and can train 7 days a week as opposed to two days a week which he did previously at the Manchester Futsal Club. He believes the sport is growing and will continue to do so, “futsal is already established in many parts of the world such as Southern and Eastern Euope and South America. In other places it is growing strongly, noticeably in Asia and Northern Europe. It is already one of the most popular sports worldwide for participation levels. Now it needs to grow in its professionalism and organisation.” Reed conceives that in the UK there is very little awareness for futsal. The FA have recognised this and are determined to change this, they have developed the National Futsal League, Youth Futsal Festival, Under 18’s Futsal Championships and a few other projects that are now coinciding with each other. With millions of pounds currently invested in the sport in England in order to open 15 new indoor clubs across the country over the next two to three years the future is bright for futsal.
English football is evolving and in particular the Premiership, physicality is no more, over the past few years tackling has been forced out of the game because most challenges are penalised these days and the emphasis has shifted to intercepting and pressure instead, hence the death of the “midfield destroyer” position. For the most part football clubs in England would only promote youth team players based on their size and strength, however now small technical players are thriving in the premiership but they tend to be the foreign imports, such as Juan Mata, David Silva and Santi Cazorla.
With this in mind futsal is the game required to help English players nurture their technical ability, to bridge the game between them and the leading International teams. For English football it is essential that futsal catches on in order for the sport to be played at a professional level and compete with the likes of Brazil and Spain. It is now recognised as vital in the development of the modern day footballer. The Olympics in 2020 could well be the stage that the sport requires to gain that extra popularity to reach extreme heights.
You can follow Doug Reed and how the England futsal team are performing via Doug’s Twitter.