Futsal is a bit of a rogue sport: one of the rare beauties with a cult following. Relatively unknown in the UK, it has larger audiences in Argentina, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal – countries which have spawned some of the best football players in the world. That is no coincidence. The likes of Pelé, Neymar, Ronaldinho, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi, and Ronaldo all have their roots entwined with futsal. Ex-Barcelona star Xavi has said: “In futsal, you see whether a player is really talented. In normal football you don’t necessarily identify talent as easily because it’s so much more physical. But with futsal, you notice the small details in quality, class, and tactical understanding.” Futsal separates the wheat from the chaff.
It’s like normal football but with distinct differences. For a start the ball is different: it’s smaller, with a size 4 ball used as opposed to the size 5 used in football. Additionally, a Futsal ball has about 30% less bounce than its counterpart, and is also heavier. This means that it’s both harder to kick and to control, and players must exhibit more skill. In addition, teams are five a side, the pitches and goals are smaller, the playing surface is solid – a basketball court rather than a football field – and the rules are designed to speed up game play. Like a condensed version of football, where things happen faster, with futsal you are constantly moving, and must shift, flow, and ebb with your teammates synchronously and at high speed. At least that was my experience…
“The likes of Pele, Neymar, Ronaldinho, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi, and Ronaldo all have their roots entwined with futsal”
For a heavy-footed, under-exercised Sports Editor the prospect of Futsal was rather daunting. I knew I would be bad, it was just a matter of how bad. I played football through primary school, and, with coaching from my brother, even managed to score a hat-trick whilst playing for our school’s third team. These experiences left me ill prepared for my time with Imperial futsal. The captain kindly allowed me to give the sport a go, despite the fact one of their most hotly anticipated games was just around the corner. IC futsal were top-of-their-league and in contention for promotion; their players were at the height of their season, playing better than ever. If there was ever a time to be publicly humiliated this was it. Sheepishly moving through Ethos at the heels of my Aero husband (Harry Lanz, the most uncoordinated man alive, who has played Futsal throughout his time at Imperial), I joined the squad in the changing rooms. Quickly my nerves relaxed. The casual chat, friendly faces, and welcoming demeanour of all the bois was lovely, Actually that’s a bit wet: it was just normal. Just the bois looking forward to kicking a ball about for the next two hours. I began to realize I was unnecessarily stressing.
Around 25 people came along to the training session, which was held in the Ethos sports hall – about average for the team. Prior to warm-up we took some shots at goal and I entered a circle of folk playing a keepy-upie game. Naturally I was the liability and allowed the ball to touch the floor whenever it was given to me bar once… The few ‘fans’ looked down from Ethos’ gym in disappointment. I was ready.
“You are constantly moving, and must shift, flow, and ebb with your teammates synchronously and at high speed”
After warm-up, the team would normally go into a skill-based training, shooting, passing, and ball control drills, but this time it was decided that we would all split off into teams and go straight into games. Terrified, I was handed a yellow bib and Harry was put in the unfortunate situation of being my teammate. Prior to the game, all players were given a demonstration of some tactics. As there are only four outfield players (and one goalkeeper) these are different from football, with the team loosely divided into two offensive and two defensive players. I say “loosely”: after watching other teams play I noticed the fluidity of the game, a side-effect of the small pitch. The ability to have very fast counterattacks means that there is constant running for the duration of the five-minute games we played. Players had to be very well-rounded; defenders were found shooting, and offensive player defended. When I did play I found I fully appreciated the pace of the game. It’s the sort of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it of attack, counter-attack, AND hat-trick speed of play. But those who play aren’t super human. I was given advice by my peers throughout the matches. I felt I was getting better from game to game. I can imagine if I had started playing at the start of the year I may be mediocre, instead of just terrible!
I spoke to our Futsal correspondent (Harry Lanz), for his insight:
“I’ve played 11-a-side football throughout my life, and when I started at Imperial I was immediately interested in trying out for the team. Football trials were fun but they were very far away and would end up taking over four hours out of my day. Due to convenience, I turned towards futsal – taking place in ethos for two hours once a week with matches most Sundays – it was a lot less time consuming but still got me my football fix.”
“I had played futsal a few times at school, but it still took a while to get used to the strange rules compared to football. However, once I got used to them I found the game to be a lot faster and more volatile than regular football. Futsal also lends itself to the technical side of football, frequently rewarding well executed skills with gained ground and goals. With no strict positions a good futsal player must be able to adapt on the fly and perform well on their own in attack and defence but more importantly they must be team oriented. Picking the right pass in offence or defence could be the difference between a goal or a turnover or a successful counter attack versus a conceded goal. You have to think on your feet and be ready to play with a hugely variable team with substitutions happening every four or so minutes.”
“Players must perform well on their own in attack and defence but more importantly they must be team oriented”
“The team has developed quite a bit since I first joined, coming dead last in the league in my first year, albeit with a team of mostly freshers, to placing 2nd in the league this year; narrowly missing out on the top spot in a critical playoff match. I look forward to even more progression as a team and hopefully more success.”
“As a subset of the football club we’re (a small part) of the social events that they hold and are usually there with our futsal ties. Our captain Alex always does his best in Bola Bola and I’m sure he’ll gladly accept any pint race challenges if you find him at sports night.” Futsal is a condensed and concentrated form of football, where all aspects of football are developed and more. Each game is pretty much twenty minutes of sprinting which helps to trim the waistline, and since it is played indoors you avoid chilly weekday training evenings on the permafrost at fort Harlington. With one game and one training session (and one sports night) a week it is hardly a time sink too. Finally, after this year’s success there will be a 2s team forming, and the club is looking to expand! No prior experience is needed! So get in touch, drop a line, shoot a message to the captain (Alex Godfrey) at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in joining next year.