Futsal: A Culture by Carl Wilkinson
The futsal community is often accused of snobbery when it comes to speaking about the game and, in part, the accusations can sometimes be correct – but it comes from a good place, a place of protecting the game that we love.
The five non-negotiables of the game:
The goals – 3m x 2m
The laws – 5v5, 4 second restarts, kick-ins, foul count (& more)
The court – upto 40m x 20m, with lines
The ball – size 4, reduced bounce
The surface – hard, fast
These are the fundamental things that give futsal an identity. The more of these you take away, the more the game becomes like football and less like futsal. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s a thing nonetheless.
The alleged snobbery usually appears people dipping their toe into the water and sampling futsal for the first few times or, perhaps in extreme cases, when people are identifying misuse of the word futsal, often for personal gain at the expense of the game and name of futsal.
Because futsal is so small in England, there are staunch defenders of the game that won’t let misuse of the word or misrepresentation of the game go by and in turn this is seen as an arrogant or condescending stance. There seem to be two groups on this battlefield (generally):
Those that are of FA employment/affiliation who know that there is a very fine line to balance on the issue. Or;
Those that are 99% futsal and will do what they can to uphold the name of the game, without (m)any football related activities to protect or think of.
The next stage of development, which may not occur during this first six-year cycle and isn’t mentioned in the strategy document, is to build on the initial identity and to have our own culture. We know what futsal is and what elements make it ‘futsal’, but does that mean all games played with the correct goals, laws, pitch, ball and surface are automatically futsal? Technically yes, but realistically no.
I think this is where many of the ‘snobs’ are at. They are years ahead of the mainstream game and they want a culture of futsal which we don’t yet have. They see the correct ball, court, players, goals and laws being used but then the duration of the game may be 8/10 minutes and the two teams kick the ball as far up the court as they can in search for the most amount of goals in the short space of time. Whilst the organisation is earnest in its intentions, it falls short of what futsal is and it is then called out for what it is - then the calls of ‘snob’ begin, and everything falls to pieces. Education is key.
A culture of futsal would take the five non-negotiables as a minimum and then build on top using technical and tactical (age dependent) elements where possible.
Young players are more than capable of learning to play futsal from a young age. Control with the sole is one of the most natural responses in the world – ask a toddler to stop a ball as you roll it to them and watch what they do. The most efficient way to amass complete control over the ball in a lot of circumstances and without it on a futsal court it is hard work.
Passing techniques to keep the ball grounded and with enough weight to reach the target are different to those used on a football pitch. Parallel, diagonal, perpendicular, blocking are all techniques and types of passes that young players will learn playing to a culture of futsal, all the way through to different styles of philosophy and concepts that are specific to futsal.
As the players age and gain technical proficiency, their tactical game can develop, too. A game of futsal at the highest level (particularly in the flesh) looks like chaos due to the amount of movement that takes place, yet every player is in control of their immediate surroundings following years of playing and learning.
This is the culture that is needed for the game long term, but at this point I don’t think that falls at the feet of the FA who are trying to introduce it to the masses. I think this is the responsibility of leagues, event organisers and clubs to ensure that the game is played to a culture, whilst being correctly sanctioned and done so in a safe environment.
Football teams, whether grassroots or academy, often won’t be concerned about the specific techniques or tactical elements of futsal because they’re not trying to create futsal players. They want to harness the benefits of the game for their footballers and whilst this is one example of using our beautiful little game, that does not provide much of a benefit to futsal as a sport outside of, perhaps, exposing more people to the word.
To pioneer the game, we need to be careful not to alienate those that are showing an interest, but we do need to uphold the values and technical differences that the game has and create an English futsal culture.”