Talk to people involved in Football and they will all tell you what they think Futsal is. Yet almost none of them have actually watched a professional game or understand the game. So where do these misconceptions come from and what are they. The other question that should be raised is does Futsal really help the outdoor game and if so, how.
First of all most peoples idea of Futsal is a game played on a basketball court where players use their tricks to take on players and score goals. This image of Futsal comes from social competitions, Youtube highlights as well as the movie ‘Ginga’. How wrong they all are!
First of all, Futsal is not played on a basketball court. A basketball ball court (shown in dark blue below) is very small when compared to a normal Futsal court (shown in light blue). To give you an idea of the size difference; a basketball court is 28x15m (420 sq.m.) and a Futsal court is 40x20m (800sq.m.). This is nearly twice the size. As well as this, the penalty area on a Futsal court is vastly bigger.
So how does this affect the way players adapt to the areas. Firstly, on a small court a player is encourage to dribble and take on players because if they succeed, they will be able to get a shot on goal. The individual over the team then gets encouraged. In comparison with proper Futsal on a larger court, if you beat a player, the chances are you will still have to beat several other players and you will be too far away from the goals. In order to get a quality shot on goal. Teams have to work very well with combination passes and playing no more than a 2 touch game in order to succeed. This is why Futsal is better developed in countries where players start their development on a full size court as they are encouraged to play properly.
In a recent trip to Spain I spoke with the technical Director of El Pozo Murcia ‘Fran Serejon’. I asked him about Brazilian players and how there were quite a few playing in Spain. His response was quite strong. He stated that they don’t really value Brazilian players as they are too technical and don’t understand the game. He went on to say that in Brazil, there are more players now playing on full size courts and are therefore producing better players. He pointed out a young Brazilian player in his team. He was in Spain after being spotted in Brazil. He was considered a great talent but required a year and a half of development before he broke into the first team. He still had another 6 months before he would be a valuable player. Although somewhat surprising a response, it is backed up by the national Brazilian team which has in the last world cup had 14 players of which 10 played professionally in Spain and of the 4 Brazilian based players, 3 were goal keepers.
Futsal tricks??? There are none. The grand final of the Spanish League between Barcelona and Segovia (pictured right) was played in June 2011. This was one of the best games of Futsal I have ever watched, but there were no tricks. The intensity of the game was outstanding. The highlight for Futsal coaches was the quality of the defence of both teams. They both played what is called a ‘switching defence’ which is a form of pressing. Very similar to how Barcelona’s outdoor team defends. This way, players have almost no time on the ball which means there is no time or space for tricks. Also what was missing from this final game was the lack of players tacking on players. Although it does happen, it is not the norm. At this level, if you want to beat a player or an organised defence, you need to move the ball well with combination passes. This was done by both teams with brilliance. The ball moved at a pace more similar to a game of ice hockey. Both teams did not lose possession easily but always seemed to be attacking.
The game of Futsal shown on the Brazilian documentary movie ‘Ginga’ has probably caused more damage than good for the game. In this documentary it shows Falcao and Robinho playing a game of ‘social’ Futsal. It more resembles a light hearted game of street soccer than anything as they both try and show off their tricks. It is true however that Futsal is a technical game. However this means that players need to be able to use both sides of their body and be able to execute the common elements of the game quickly, efficiently and without error. Technical does not mean that the player should take control of the ball and try to play keepings off with his/her direct opponent. My observations in Spain watching junior Futsal players was that they not only did not spend much time on the ball, but that most of their first touches were attacking first touches. This means that they would receive the ball and orient their first control to an attacking option. In contrast, I observed an elite group in Melbourne of outdoor players who’s first touch nearly always was towards themselves. By doing this they killed their teams momentum and ability to attack. They also tended to lose possession because their passing options were nearly always cut off and they had to twist and turn with the ball. Although they were very good at controlling the ball, they were not very good as a team. In contrast with the Spanish juniors of a similar age, their awareness of what was around them allowed them to use their first touch to take advantage of whatever opportunities presented themselves. Their body position also indicated that they were looking for forward options and not to try and shine as an individual because of what tricks they could do. As a result, their game sense and ability to keep possession while still attacking was remarkable in contrast to what I have seen in Australia.
One of the other major differences that often does not get mentioned is the goalkeeping. On a basketball court with a small penalty area, the goalkeeper has little reason to come of his/her line. In contrast with a proper penalty area, the keeper becomes more integrated into the team. They are not necessarily seen as the last player as when they come to block around the top of the ‘D’, it is expected that teams mates will drop to cover the far post or other danger areas. The keeper also must develop very good blocking technique and ensure that they don’t dive on the ground. The goals are small when comparing to the outdoor game, so blocking techniques are very effective in preventing 1v1 situations. This has an effect with the players when they get a counter attack. If the keeper can stop a 1v1, then a counter attack must include more than one player. Teamwork again becomes very important. The other big difference with the goalkeepers of Spain and ours, is that they will almost always be involved in a 5v4 powerplay. For those who don’t know what this is, its when the goal keeper enters the attacking half of the court, where they become a player (according to the laws of the game). This makes the opposition stationary as they cannot afford to allow a 2v1 situation as this will create a quality shot on goal. This is practised from the time they are 8 years old. I have only seen it a few times done in Australia with contrast, I saw it in 80% of games I witnessed in Spain both Juniors and Seniors.
So what is Futsal?
Futsal is a game where players are required to move the ball quickly and accurately with creativity. Their movements off the ball are as equally important. This means that the players must posses all the skills to control the ball and move it quickly and accurately. The highest form of the game is described as a possession attacking game. Possession alone is of no value as it is a time bomb as to when the team will lose it and allow their opponents to score on a counter. Possession is only valued if the team ends up with a quality shot on goal. Watching the best teams in Spain and the World Cup showed this with some games won by the stronger teams with less possession overall in the game, however when they had it, they rarely lost it in general play. They did however construct quality shots on goal quickly.
The defensive game is the most important element of the game and most teams spend a lot of time working on this. A taxi driver in Spain summed it up well when he described Barcelona’s Futsal team as a team that was known to be lazy in defence which is why they never did well. Now that they have bought a lot of good players, they defend better and can score goals. A few months later they won both the Copa del Rey and the League. The method of defending by most quality teams is of a high pressing game. All players drop behind the line of the ball, press the ball carrier, cover this player and cut off dangerous passing angles. Players work hard to stop shots on goal and are patient in order to win the ball back. In contrast with many Australian social Futsal matches, we often see a player who sit up front like an outdoor striker, while their team mates dive in to try and win the ball.
So does Futsal help the outdoor player? Anyone who has been involved in coaching Futsal will laugh as it is quite obvious that the answer is a resounding yes! However this needs to be clarified to a degree. Not all players benefit to the same degree.
- Less talented players get very little out of it as they also don’t get much out of training of any kind.
- People who play Futsal without any training can get some benefits but can be limited due to their attitude. If they think they are already good, they will keep doing the same things over and over and therefore will not improve.
- Players who want to learn will try new things when they play. These players will improve greatly. Even better are those players who want to learn and get proper coaching.
- Players who grow up with Futsal do take some time to adjust to the outdoor game. The bouncing ball and the soft grass surface does take some getting used to. However once this is accomplished, the Futsal player will generally strive to emulate their Futsal abilities in the outdoor game making them a quality outdoor player.
- The decision making and vision of a Futsal player will generally be better than an outdoor player due to the game being faster and players having less time and space to be effective. An outdoor environment allows Futsal players a lot of time and space to do things.
- When played on a full size court, Futsal provides the player with superior physical conditioning game. Futsal players are generally more powerful and faster over 10 metres. Their capacity to play a high paced game is also greater as recovery time in a Futsal game is quite short.
- Futsal and 11 a side are different mainly due to the ball being low bounce. This creates opportunities for the Futsal player to be more in control of the ball than the outdoor player. Different techniques also come into play such as toe-pokes, flicks and so on. These techniques can be used in the outdoor game, however they cannot be used as often and the player needs to get used to making decisions as to how he/she needs to control the ball.
There are many 11 a side coaches who do not like toe-pokes, flicks or controlling the ball with the bottom of the foot. Brazilian and Argentinian players have shown time and again that there is a place for all skills. An Argentinian Futsal coach ‘Facundo Ruscica’ described the complete player as one who has a tool box full of tools that he/she knows when and where to use them. Denying oneself the opportunity to develop these skills is to acknowledge that one will never be a complete player. The main reason for outdoor coaches resisting these techniques is that they themselves can’t do therefore do not understand them.
Futsal on a full size court emulates the outdoor game quite closely in the way the ball needs to be moved, the tactics of combination play and the pressing defensive game. In the words of Fran Serejon It is easy for a good Futsal player to play 11 a side as there is so much time and space, however the outdoor player struggles playing Futsal as they are used to having more time and space and can get away with slightly sloppy technique. Fran played in a charity match in Spain of recently retired Futsal players and recently retired outdoor players. Although he didn’t tell me the end score, he said that the outdoor players were played off the park. Of course he will have some bias but I think it gives a reasonable understanding of how the game went.
Injuries are another concern. Yes players get hurt and they seem to get hurt quite badly as especially good players get targeted in the outdoor game. But not so in Futsal. Futsal is a noncontact sport. It is common to have players missing due to injury for a Futsal team because they play outdoors, however it’s quite rare to have Futsal players get seriously injured. Knees and ankles do not get the same problems in Futsal as they do in outdoors. The main reason for this is that with the outdoor game, players wear studded boots which when the body wants to turn, their feet get stuck in the ground causing a lot of stress on ligaments and joints. In Futsal, the shoe turns with the body, so there is much less stress on the ligaments. Also Futsal players do not jump and make sudden moves such as basketballers and netballers, which is why they do not suffer the impact problems these sports are known for.
The last misconception which emanates from the documentary ‘Ginga’ is that Futsal players are not as fast or fit as outdoor players. In a recent study comparing the two sports, Futsal players came up as being faster, stronger and had better aerobic capacity.
I wrote this article as I have been involved in many conversations with people who claim to know Futsal, yet they are quite off the mark. Also I know there are many outdoor coaches who don’t know Futsal and confuse it with the English form of indoor soccer, which is quite different.
I hope this helps you not only understand the game of Futsal, but to also embrace it and even get involved in it.
Edgard Vatcky – FFV Futsal Head Coach