From the Sports Halls to the Premier League

Back in 2000, at eight years of age, a young Philippe Coutinho was tearing defenders apart with his skills on the pitch. Even at the start of the millennium, the South American had a trick up his sleeve and an eye for goal. Skip forward to the modern day and you’ll find not much has changed. He is still the same baby-faced Brazilian, deadly when going forward. The only thing now is that he shows his abilities on a full-sized pitch, and not in a futsal arena.

Like legends of the game Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Coutinho started his footballing journey with this variation of the game. FIFA recognise futsal as the fastest-growing indoor sport in the world. It is fundamentally very similar to the association football that we all know. To put it simply: there is a ball, two teams, and a goal at each end.

The style of play is much different to that of the nation’s favourite game, however. The game is free-flowing, end-to-end, non-stop action. It is therefore very similar to basketball in many ways, with a focus on off-the-ball movement to support those that do have possession. Due to the tight areas players find themselves in, top players often perform flicks and tricks to beat their opponent when they have the ball. This is how skillful household names across the world have honed their talents.

It is no coincidence that some of the world’s best football players played the sport when younger. Watching the video at the beginning of this article, you can see elements in Coutinho’s game that define his playing style. His compatriot – world-record signing Neymar Jr – told FourFourTwo that futsal helped develop his own ‘fast game and Brazilian smartness’. I mean, if it’s good enough for Neymar….

Futsal – A Key Development Tool

But if the likes of Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar played futsal when they were growing up, why aren’t we encouraging our players to do the same? Well, we are…

In September this year, the Football Association and the Football Foundation launched a £300,000 Futsal Fund. The aim is developing the game – which is played worldwide – here in England for those as young as twelve years of age. By working in partnership with the organisations, this year helped provide a free Futsal Starter Pack – including goals, bibs and balls.

The organisations are also offering coaching and refereeing courses for those who register for the fund, with county FAs, schools and more all encouraged to take part. By reducing the associated costs within the sport, the For Futsal fund gave clubs the ability to continue supporting their squad.

futsal bloomsbury coach

Establishments nationwide are now giving more players opportunities in futsal. Charlie Hyman, director at Bloomsbury Football Academy in Central London, uses the sport to aid the progress of his players. He says that by using it as a ‘key development tool’ to compliment their football programme, they can develop their game massively in the way of the superstars Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar.

“Bloomsbury Football Academy offers all talented young players the chance to be a part of a professional training programme, regardless of their financial background,” Hyman told us. “As part of our programme, we offer a weekly futsal session for all age groups. The aim is helping to create technically proficient players that are able to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations. I believe both in futsal being played as its own game, but also using it as breeding ground for young players to enhance their football competencies.”

As Competitive as the ‘Real Thing’

Futsal isn’t just a pathway into football. It is a sport in its own right – a really good one at that. If stardom is what interests you, then the game has its own celebrity players. Just look at Falcao, considered by many as the sport’s best player of all time. He has featured alongside Ronaldinho – who needs no introduction – in Nike adverts.

At a grassroots level, it is just as competitive as eleven-a-side. The FA have set up nationwide Futsal Fives leagues, giving participants access to a high-standard environment. This includes suitably qualified referees, published results and fixtures on a dedicated website and even a league coordinator. Furthermore, all the matches played are against other local sides in high-quality venues.

The National Futsal League formed in 2008 on the back of the success of the regional-based competitions. This brings together the crème de la crème of the country. We have recently partnered with the competition to become their official kit providers. This comes at an exciting time, with some of the league’s best players a part of the England team’s recent Four Nations tournament success.

Reasons to Play Futsal

Perhaps you just want a sport to play that is fun. That’s understandable. Small-sided football has now overtaken 11-a-side in terms of numbers, with many stating that they get more touches of the ball in such environments. That’s a theory proven to be true according to a FIFA study. With a rolling clock, you won’t find the ball is out of play for 34% of a game, too…

Maybe you just want to enjoy your leisure-time without the risk of catching a cold. Back in September we asked parents why their child doesn’t play football. 14% responded that it was due to bad weather. Solution: futsal. They won’t have that problem indoors…

Worried you’re not skilful enough to take part in futsal? Well, Hyman tells us that it is not all about showboating. In fact, the game is so fast-paced that only the best will be able to do this.

“Futsal is generally perceived to be about flicks, tricks, and nutmegs. This is a myth. I am a National Futsal League player myself and anyone who has been involved with the sport will tell you that the game is heavily focused around quick passing and movement off the ball”.

futsal bloomsbury

How Can I Get Involved?

Whether you’re looking to play competitively or for fun, and whether you’re using it as a development tool for football or not, futsal is both enjoyable and challenging. Thanks to recent positive changes from the Football Association, it is also becoming more accessible.

Some may argue that we’re a little late to the party. The progress the FA is currently making within the English game is rapid, though. The focus that has been put on futsal by the governing body will only improve it further. Playing the sport more will almost certainly bring more flair and panache to our style of play as a nation.

By joining a Futsal Fives league, you might just find a new hobby or talent. Click HERE to find out more about the competitions that are made available across the country.

Do you have a football team and you want to adapt Hyman’s approach? Get in touch with your local sports hall to see if they can accommodate you. With opportunities to access grants, there has never been a better time to get into futsal than now.

Get involved!

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