Fun and fast, futsal is a dynamic form of soccer played worldwide! Originating in Uruguay during the 1930’s, this five-on-five game was designed for youth players in YMCA competitions. It quickly spread throughout South America, becoming most popular in Brazil as a fun pick-up form of soccer. The game was formally named futsal in 1989 as part of FIFA’s efforts to unify the rules and market the sport worldwide. Although usually associated with soccer, FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, describes itself as an international governing body of association football, futsal, and beach soccer.
Futsal itself is very similar in layout to the game of soccer, but the style is much different. It is played indoors on fields slightly larger than basketball courts—although international courts are about twice as big—allowing a great winter alternative to soccer. A low-bounce ball is used, which means the ball spends more time on the ground. Compared to forty-five minute halves in soccer, futsal has twenty minute halves. Substitutions happen on the fly so players can simply swap out whenever without stopping play. All these attributes of futsal combine to make a fun, quick-paced game.
Futsal emphasizes the development of strong passing and dribbling skills. With everything being smaller and shorter than it is in soccer, reaction time and quick thinking is critical. This is excellent for the development of good ball control, which makes futsal an ideal training tool. “Futsal is a great way to stay in shape during the off-season,” says Franklin’s varsity soccer player Nikolas Kovacevic (12), “and it’s a really fun, more relaxed way to play in preparation to the season.” Many of the top soccer players in the world claim futsal as a pivotal element in the development of their skills. “I think kids should be doing pickup or futsal all the time,” says current Sporting Director for New York City FC (Football Club) Claudio Reyna on the Rose City Futsal website. “I think it’s very important for technique. In Argentina, futsal is what kids play growing up. They get very comfortable in small spaces with the ball. It’s usually less pressure, so they can try things.” Compared to soccer, futsal demands more versatile players and has a much lower injury rate. “Futsal is a ton of fun and even if you don’t take soccer seriously, you should really give it a try,” says Kovacevic.
This game develops skills such as ball control, passing, and teamwork, which are some of the most valuable parts of futsal, whether it’s in playing futsal or to be used in soccer. “I personally have gained these but I’ve also gained experience running a team,” says Matthew Dirk (12), captain of the Mystic Flamingos, a recreational high school futsal team made up of Franklin students. Handling management aspects of the team may be challenging while balancing school, but playing and bonding with a close-knit team makes it worth it. “One of my biggest complaints is futsal is expensive and due to this, many rec level teams, especially at the high school level, aren’t likely to be playing futsal,” says Dirk. “My first futsal game ever, the Mystic Flamingos lost 7-0 to a team called Kiss My Pass.” The Mystic Flamingos are up against a tough set of teams in their seasons, which can be readily connected to the high cost of playing. Club teams that already pay to play soccer often do futsal in the off seasons, but the average rec soccer player does not have the funds to always create a team. This adds a discrepancy in skill levels as the few rec teams that do form are thrown amongst the higher, club-level players.
Futsal culture in Portland has continuously been improving in recent years. There are now four futsal facilities in the Portland area that have come together to form a league, sharing games among their locations; prior to this, each facility had their own leagues. Oregon Youth Soccer Association (OYSA) stepped in this fall to run the futsal league formerly known as Northwest Futsal. Although youth is in their name, the game includes people of every age and background. There are leagues for those that just learned to walk to adults that want to have fun and stay fit. Many futsal places like Rose City Futsal East have restaurants or bars for watching futsal games and hanging out. It’s a great, friendly environment to meet new people and enjoy a shared love for the game.
Futsal may still appear to be the younger cousin to soccer, but it is still growing as a sport. The speed of the game keeps fans riveted, and it will likely be seen on a larger scale as it progresses further. While other nations have embraced futsal, the United States has been slower to grow it; nonetheless, it has been planted within our country and will continue to grow with nurturing and continued support.