What is Futsal?
Futsal is an exciting, fast-paced small sided football game that originates from South America in the 1930s. It is widely played across the world, and
is the small sided football format that is officially recognised by both UEFA and FIFA. The nature
of the game places a large emphasis on technical skill and ability in situations of high pressure, and
is subsequently an excellent breeding ground for football competencies that can be translated into the 11-a-side format of the game. Many of the
top world class footballers played Futsal in their youth and credit it with supporting their footballing development. Players of the calibre of Pele, Zico, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Lionel Messi to name but a few of the South American legends all played and enjoyed Futsal. But Futsal has not just helped produce South American football stars, on the European stage Cristiano Ronaldo, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas amongst many others have played Futsal to develop their skills.
Futsal began in Uruguay and Brazil where the large crowded cities and a shortage of playing pitches forced a football mad populace to play small sided football and in 1936 the first rules emerged. Futsal was the name chosen by FIFA, which is simply
a combination of the Spanish words for ‘hall’ (Sala) and ‘football’ (Futbol): hence ‘Futsal’.
Futsal is a five-a-side game, normally played on a flat indoor pitch with hockey sized goals and a size 4 ball with a reduced bounce. It is played to touchlines and all players are free to enter the penalty area and play the ball over head-height. Games are 20 minutes per half, played to a stopping clock (similar to basketball) with time-outs permitted.
There are a number of differences to our traditional version of small sided football, but the dominant elements are the absence of rebound boards and amendments in the laws that encourage and foster skilful, creative play above the physical contact that tends to be a feature of English five-a-side.
What are the benefits of playing Futsal?
Although Futsal is very much a game in its own right, there are also a number of benefits for football by encouraging young people to play Futsal as part of a balanced training programme to improve their overall technical development. The game of Futsal creates an environment that allows young people to simulate and develop many skills and proficiencies that are transferrable to the 11-a-side game.
The nature of Futsal with the smaller confines of the pitch that makes it harder to find space, the line markings that prevents easy escape from tight situations (such as in traditional 5-a-side where players can play the ball off the wall), and the smaller heavier ball which supports closer ball control and manipulation supports the technical development of young players in a multitude of ways.
Research indicates that individual’s playing Futsal receive the ball six times more often than they would do when they are playing 11-a-side football, allowing players to perform more individual techniques such as passes, controls, fakes, feints, dribbles and runs with the ball (Liverpool John Moores University, 2001). As well as touching the ball more often, players will often receive the ball under pressure from opponents developing their confidence on the ball particularly in pressurised environments. Futsal as a game naturally brings players into regular one-on-one situations with their opponent, encouraging players into quick decision- making as to how they overcome these scenarios; this could be through beating the opponent with a skill, or through clever passing to a team-mate. But one of the core attributes Futsal teaches young players is the importance of ball retention due to the threat of an immediate counter-attack.
Confidence on the ball, receiving a pass under pressure, decision-making in 1v1 situations, and ball retention are all important fundamental skills that we look to develop in young football players that are practiced regularly within a game environment in Futsal.
What is the difference between 5-a-side and Futsal?
At first glance it may not necessarily be apparent what the difference is between traditional English 5-a-side football and Futsal. Of course both formats of the game have five players on the pitch at any one time, but there are a number of fundamental differences that separate these two small sided games ranging from the equipment to the laws of the game. The diagram below helps to illustrate some of the main differences…