Football, Futsal and The Future

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Despite Brazil’s humiliating defeats in their last couple of games at the World Cup, I believe that young players in the UK can learn a lot from futsal, the five-a-side football format made famous by all of the Brazilian teams that didn’t play under Big Phil. I started thinking about all of this when I was out in Brazil for the World Cup, and then when I was doing my UEFA coaching badges in Ireland a few weeks back, I began thinking a little more about how we can increase technical ability coaching and integrate the lessons that futsal teaches with the more athletic and tactical training we offer in England. Now I’m away with the lads in Germany, I’ve had a chance to pull the laptop out. So here goes…

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, so if you lot have any thoughts on the issue, or if you have experience of futsal, or technical training in other countries it’d be great to hear from you.

The rules of futsal in brief

The game lasts 20 minutes and is contested by two teams of five – one keeper and four outfield players. The ball is smaller and slightly heavier than a football. You can have unlimited substitutions, keepers have only four seconds to get rid of the ball and there are no offsides. You can see the full rules here.

A very brief history

Futsal is derived from the Portuguese phrase futebol de salao, which translates roughly as ‘hall football’. It started around 80 years ago in Uruguay and gradually spread through South America and across into Spain and Portugal. Many of the world’s greatest players (as well as Neymar and David Luiz!) started out playing futsal – Pele, Zico, Socrates, Messi, and Christiano Ronaldo to name just a few.

The current standings

These days most countries have fully-fledged futsal associations, and FIFA runs a Futsal World Cup every four years. There have been seven so far, with Spain winning two and Brazil winning five, including the last tournament in Bangkok in 2012. Obviously, those two teams top the futsal world rankings, but there are a few surprises in there too: Iran are 7th, Azerbaijan are 10th and England are 73rd – just three places above Chinese Taipei and 29 below Kyrgystan. That’s worth a bit of a laugh, and it’s a good pub fact, but it highlights something a little deeper for me – that England lacks gifted technical players with the ability to improvise, create and thrive in small spaces with the ball at their feet.

What futsal teaches young players

I read a really interesting article the other day on the BBC website by Ben Smith. It’s definitely worth a read, and shows just how many top international players have come through the futsal system, and how Brazilian academies integrate futsal into their training programs.

It’s widely regarded that the rules of the game, the smaller pitch, the need to play the ball along the floor and the tight marking all help players to become more technically adept in tight situations. In the article, Ronaldo, Messi and Robinho all talk about the difference futsal made to their games, but for me the telling quote came from Pele: “futsal was important in helping to develop my ball control, quick thinking, passing… also for dribbling, balance, concentration… futsal was very, very important, no doubt”. In short, futsal gave arguably the best player ever all the skills he was known for.

As well as the South American nations, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany have been getting involved in futsal for some years now, and that’s helped them to lead the development of a more technical style of European football over the last decade or so. The opportunity for futsal to lead innovation in style and technical ability can be seen in Ben’s description of the role of futsal in Brazil’s academies…

“[Futsal] is played in all Brazilian football academies, and is part of what distinguishes coaching in the country, where the biggest fear is over-coaching its next generation of boys and girls, not under-coaching them. Coaches are discouraged from giving players formal positions until they are 14. Talent is allowed to breathe, to find its natural path in games such as futsal. From the age of seven to 12, young players tackle futsal three days a week.”

Futsal and English academies

My experience of English football academies when I was coming through 15 to 20 years ago couldn’t be more different; the focus was on physical strength and playing in a set role within a team, and it certainly didn’t look to bring out the individualistic, creative and impromptu elements of football that futsal seems to do. For me the way in which Brazilian academies integrate futsal into the development of young players encourages a greater degree of expression on the ball, a greater ability to improvise (how many times did we see Jack Wilshere run into dead ends and out of ideas?), to play confidently with the ball at their feet, and, perhaps most importantly, it allows players to trust in their own ability and to understand how their skills can benefit the team, rather than being taught how to reign in individuality and expression in favour of adhering to tactical discipline and a pre-defined team ethic. Obviously, the harnessing of individuals’ technical abilities into a team ethic (as personified by the Germans this year, and the Spanish for the last decade) becomes increasingly important as players get older, but the fact that in Brazilian academies kids aren’t allocated strict positions until later in their development process also allow them to learn the game as an act of passion and commitment, of desire and joy – they learn to play football from the heart rather than learning how to play left back from an FA coaching manual.

I’m really interested to hear what you have to say on this, as I’m still getting my head around it all at the minute. I’m actually thinking of doing an interview on this blog with a top futsal coach about what English football can learn from futsal. So add a comment below, and help a footballer with his brain in his feet get a deeper understanding of the game he loves.

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51 comments
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Salasoccer
Salasoccer

Great article Joey. I have been coaching futsal in Manchester for over 6 years now and now the penny is starting to drop.

I am currently one of the first group of coaches doing the futsal UEFA at St George's park.

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MarlonInakiFernandez
MarlonInakiFernandez

I'm 13, and play for the Celta Vigo academy in Spain. We play Futsal every Thursday so they obviously think it's good!

seanf1962
seanf1962

hi joey


i was actually at the forefront in 1998 of promoting 'futebol-de-salao in the uk. i was one of the first franchise holders for the Brazilian Soccer Schools. At that time the methods and game of futebol-de-salao were virtually unknown outside of Europe, let alone the UK. All in all it was greeted with much negativity and sceptism by the FA and most Pro Academies and Development Centres.It is amazing now to see the FA and literally every other coach/soccer school using/promoting and claiming to be experts in this concept! I think the message here is it shows how far we are behind in terms of developing young players to attain vital , reactive and technical skills as is 16 years since this concept initially arrived in the UK and its only now that it is gaining the attention and credibility that it deserves. I my self have actually visited, trained and been mentored by brazilian coaches, and educators, i took myself off to actually seek out teachers from south america, or coaches that had spent many years training in Brazil to learn many more of their methods, one area in particular of which should be compulsory in every Academy etc is the movement based technique of the 'Ginga' which means to 'sway'. Every young brazilian child is taught the 'Ginga' from when they can walk, and it is basically a dance/martial art based culture that once ingrained in the nervous system enables players to move, disguise and feint without and with the ball exceptionally! This is one of the real secrets of brazilian football and i have trained many players using this to enhance fluidity and unpredictability and when coupled with technical mastery it produces great results, but once again here in the UK it is frowned upon, i feel to our detriment!


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mbroderick147
mbroderick147

Great article - I was lucky enough to be coached by a manager in the 90s who placed emphasis on the ball - we had training once a week that focused purely on skills and taking players on - culminating in small sided games on small pitches. We didn't lose an 11 a side match for 3 years and produced a professional (ryan baldachinno of Blackburn, Bolton, and gretna among others) as well as 10 other academy players who didn't quite make it. As long as we weren't doing Cruyff turns in the6 yard box anything was ok and praised. I was turned from an average player to a good player who scored 20 a season in a le tissier type role. This is as closer to futsal as we got but if there were more coaches like Mr Woolf there would bea lot of better players who could keep the ball. His favourite training session was to play 9 v 9 with one team aiming to keep the ball and one team trying to score. No prizes for guessing which team were tired after 5 min.

I watch youth teams these days and despair at the lack of ball control and skills to beat a man - the players can do them but it's not allowed. A futsal league or system would go some way to eradicate this and produce quality players. Interestingly, we often played in different positions in 11 a side - i played gk, rb and cm with the odd game up front. It didn't even cross my mind that this was strange.

There was a C4 news piece about our team around 1995 but I've not seem it since then. Mr Woolf is now a PE teacher and his talents are wasted. I can only guess that his methods don't suit the powers that be somewhere! I'm surei could put you in touch with him if you wanted to find out more about him.

@mrbroderick147

CoachJanio
CoachJanio

Joey,


Its great to read a good player interested in Futsal.


I am Brazilian, graduated in Sports Science but coaching futsal in England and Ireland since 2005, I worked delivering futsal courses for the FA, worked for Manchester City as futsal coach and also managed Sheffield FC and West London Futsal in the FA National League. I am now in London working with Brunel University futsal team and we had a successful season winning the British University Championships this season and playing in Europe.


I agree with my friend Damon that futsal should be developed as a sport itself rather than associating it only as a tool for developing better players for football.


Yes, mostly of the Brazilian clubs would have futsal in their academies and the transition would be made between 12-16 years old. Philippe Coutinho was playing futsal for Vasco until 15 years old (you can watch him on YouTube).


I would be delighted to help you to have a better opinion about this amazing game and how British players can benefit from it.


Janio Cruz

@coachjanio 


DavidPaulWilson
DavidPaulWilson

I think the FA can learn a lot from Futsal and how other countries use as part of there school development , I'm just a mere grassroots coach but after do the beginners futsal course last year and introducing it to my u10's and seeing how well they developed with it has given myself great faith it in, it's a shame there are so many still stuck in the dark ages regarding training and won't embrace new ideas, plus it would also be nice if the FA could make the Level 1 Futsal course a realistic price so us poor humble grassroot coaches can get on and be able to pass new ideas and teachings onto the children, as the FA try to keep say it has to start from grassroots but must of us are parents of our children and do it voluntary just so they can play

andyb8327
andyb8327

Joey,


Great article. Totally agree that futsal would greatly enhance the development of players at all levels. As things stand currently indoor football and powerleague/ goals type pitches do not promote technical ability in tight areas as all to often its easier to blast the ball against the wall to get out of a tough situation. Having touchlines means that this can't happen in futsal and would greatly help English players.


Cheers


Andy

letoonarmy
letoonarmy

Joey,

I played futsal for 3 years at University for Team Bath. Top game and has made me a much stronger player, even at that age. Two feet, composure and creativity are essential and you learn from playing!

Plus it's great fun!

James

Dobes20
Dobes20

i think that it encourages kids as they get more touches of the ball played at a quicker pace and are use to being in tight situations when receiving the ball making their decision making qucker

mccannic
mccannic

I should state I use it a development tool to help local kids play football. I dont see a high tempo quick paced game which can be adapted in so many ways as lazy coaching IMO

raywoodhouse
raywoodhouse

For me it's a separate sport but can be used to great effect. Many teams use it as a lazy way of winter training. I started a league at a 3g centre with boards & I found it had the same - if not more - positives as futsal. We don't have many halls so a fast paced non stop game can be created to the same positives as futsal. I took my rules further to 'pass or dribble' from dead balls which got the players thinking quicker than ever.

damonshaw14
damonshaw14

Joey - be interested to have a chat. I'm currently in Spain doing the FUTSAL UEFA B. Once done, would make me the only English UEFA B futsal coach. Doing UEFA A in October while coaching a team here. Originally from Blackburn and president of Middlesbrough Futsal.


I answered no to the question - for me it's not to be used as an answer to having no technical players, but it should be developed as a sport which will then in turn have the desired effect.


I'd be keen to help you understand a bit more and maybe we could have a figurehead who knows the game a bit deeper than the mass media.


Good article though - not pretending to know it's an answer to football and willing to learn more. I'll leave my email address and if you need anything, get in touch.


Regards

RobbieSolomons
RobbieSolomons

Joey,


Massive QPR fan here.  My good mate Scott Shulton is running the Futsal at Rangers from next year.  He'll do an amazing job and hopefully the club will reap the rewards in a few years.


Good luck next season!


Robbie (R Block)

mccannic
mccannic

Good read . I coach and believe in this 100 % .i love the game and honestly belive learning it and coaching it has made me a better player even at the age of 32. My issue with it is I am scared unless the right people are involved as usual the f.a will get it wrong . Only recenlty I took a team to a county f.a tournament and was shocked at how little knowledge the refs had and I fear there trying to jump on the futsal band wagon and are dressing 5 a side football as futsal . Quick fix comes to mind. I hear in other parts of the country especially up north its a lot better but my local experience with a f.a set up was poor lets hope it improves i would suggest the fa get some proper funding for it and get the basics right for it to grow get young refs and get them the experince they need abroad if needs be this More funding more leagues and it should be introduced in to schools as part of p.e especially the younger age group in the winter its ideal when you cant go outside.....but all in all in the year I have been involved coaching it to local kids the difference in there abilty and fed back from the local grass roots clubs has been fantastic.

KeithBrady
KeithBrady

Hi Joey,


It is great to see more people in the professional game beginning to see the merits of Futsal, and how it can help the development of our future young players in England. 

Having coached in both England and Scotland over the last 20 years, it is only recently I have become involved with Futsal, and can clearly see the huge benefits it would give to developing players. Abilities such as speed of though, spacial awareness, first touch under pressure, ball control using all parts of the foot (and both feet), quick feet, body movement to create space, passing, shooting and strength to protect the ball under pressure, are all more rapidly developed with Futsal than with 'normal' football coaching. 

There is a growing philosophy, both in education and coaching, that we are strangling and undermining individual creativity in young people rather than nurturing it, and I believe we may be doing just that in the way we approach coaching in our young players today (Sir Ken Robinson makes this point perfectly in his TED Talk - How Schools Kill Creativity). In my opinion, Futsal is the tool that can develop both the basic skills in football, and nurture that creativity in players in their formative years. 

Within the English FA, whilst there are those convinced that Futsal has a big part play in our footballing development, there are also many not so convinced, pointing to countries like Germany who achieve success without playing Futsal to any great extent. There case against may have been be further strengthened by Brazil's failings this summer in the World Cup, and the lack of flair normally associated with great Brazilian teams. Although I do wonder, with most, if not all of the Brazilian squad now playing and being coached in Europe, are they starting to loose some of that creative flair as a result of our coaching systems?

I am now involved with Manchester Futsal Club, which is now widely regarded as one of the best English based Futsal teams in the UK, having finished runners up in both National club and FA Cup competitions. Manchester also has a fantastic and growing academy system, coaching the future starts of Futsal and Football. I would therefore urge you, and others to come and see for yourself, the fantastic work going on in Futsal in Manchester should you wish.


Best Wishes

Keith

FutsalFinn
FutsalFinn

Fair play to you Joey. Open minds will lead to improve. West Brom boss Alan Irvine visited FC Barcelona's futsal academy last year. Perhaps when you get a chance you might make the same journey and see the game at its best: http://bit.ly/1k7zemA 

ivanlmotta
ivanlmotta

Hello Joey

I'm surprised to see your interest and understanding of futsal. I'm from Brazil and used to play futsal during primary school, middle school, high school and college, and one of the most important things of futsal here in Brazil is that from the very beginning we are encoraged to be competitive in this sport, because there are lots of tournaments going on. Professional teams have people specialized in searching for talents within this tournaments, recruiting them to later become pros.

Also, there is a very strong university league specially in the state of Sao Paulo which creates a very competitive scenario among universities leading to extremely high quality maches. Students got scolarships by playing futsal for their universities.

Furthermore, it would be interesting if you could study the strategy of the best futsal teams in Brazil such as Carlos Barbosa, Jaragua do Sul, Inteli/Orlandia, etc. This will surely add value to your thoughts on this matter.

Hope it helps to enrich the forum.

Best regards,

Ivan Motta