Last year saw the Futsal World Cup in Colombia. The final was played between two of Futsal’s superpowers, Russia and Argentina. In recent years other finalists have included Spain, Brazil and Italy. These sides, along with Germany, are commonly acknowledged as being the leaders in the World game.
If you watched any of the tournament or have ever watched the game before, you can’t help but notice that the countries where Futsal is played extensively, especially in a players formative years, have such a greater understanding, relationship and appreciation of a football. Futsal requires a fleet of foot, it requires more individual technique, teams need to have far greater movement off the ball and finally, have to be far more patient when in possession.
In all formats of football, the defending team tries to deny space, the attacking team create it. Teams generally defend in units and to break these up you have to patiently move the ball from left to right and back again, forwards and then backwards, until eventually, you create a space in your oppositions defence that you can exploit with quick play and rapid interchanges of passes and movement. The other alternative is for the man on the ball to beat his immediate opponent thus drawing another defender out of position and breaking the unit.
What I’ve just described is the very essence of Futsal and what the best teams can do effectively in full-sided games at both club and international level.
For me, five-a-side is not football….
There are no boards on a football pitch that you can blast the ball against to get up the pitch or receive a return pass from. Boards that you can charge into, or where the ball can be stuck in the corner while the player shielding it, has his or her ankles hacked away by their opponent. The game is indeed quicker, full of aggression and by extension commitment. It’s more about creating half a yard to get a shot off…aimed at a goal that’s abnormally long and low. Nearly two-thirds of the pitch is the preserve of the goalkeeper. Outfield players can’t go in, he/she can’t come out! There are no overhead balls headers are not allowed at all!!
Any of this sound like football to you? Thought not…
Of the two formats, one compliments the bigger game far more greatly than the other. One develops attributes for the full-size game, one doesn’t. The rules of one seem far more closely related than the rules of the other to the eleven-a-side format.
In most of the countries where Futsal is played, it is often the first experience of football a player has. This can’t be a bad thing in terms of development...
Even the blindly patriotic must admit that whoever England seem to play these days, despite the result, they generally come off second best to teams who keep the ball better, show better ball appreciation and technique in tight areas, and have greater patience in possession.
Now I’m not going to make a simplistic connection between England’s lack of success at International level and the country’s obsession with a format of football that does nothing to develop its players. What I will say though, is that there has got to be some sort of connection between Futsal and the way football is played and expressed by the players, teams and countries that play it extensively.