Since its invention by a Uruguayan school teacher in 1930, futsal has gone from strength to strength. The modified form of five-a-side football, played on a small indoor pitch with a weighted ball, is now recognised by football’s governing body FIFA as the ‘fastest growing indoor sport in the world.’
An estimated 30 million people play futsal worldwide and around 170 FIFA registered countries play the sport. In fact, the sport has grown so popular that it is now on par with women’s football in terms of participants.
Some of the greatest ever players to have played the 11-a-side form of the game learned their trade playing futsal. Sharing World Player of Year and World Cup honours between them, Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi all put their skills down to playing futsal when they were younger.
So whether you’re looking to improve your football skills or become a futsal maestro, there are many ways in which the 5-a-side game can help.
Better your ball control
A futsal pitch is small and compact meaning there is little space for movement. Because of this, having good close control is vital. In futsal, players touch the ball up to five times more than they do in 11-a-side matches.
The fast-paced nature of the sport means that if your touch on the ball is not perfect, you are more likely to give away possession to the opposition. By having less time on the ball and being frequently pressurised on the ball in tight spaces, you will reap in the rewards on the 11-a-side pitch.
Perfect your passing
Not only does the small and compact environment improve your touch on the ball, it also enhances the accuracy of your passing. As players are quicker to close you down, you’re encouraged to make quicker decisions on the ball – where are your teammates and where is there open space?
This speeds up the movement and release of the ball because when you receive it, you’ll know exactly what to do with it. Improved spacial awareness and decision making will ultimately benefit you when you are being closed down in any form of the game.
Improve your fitness
There is no better way to improve your fitness than playing sport on a regular basis. Fitness is the basis of all sports and it’s also essential to everyday life. Published fitness author and personal trainer Jon Denoris notes that it’s important to train your muscles to perform simple daily activities in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In futsal there is little time to take a breath – every player must help out in defence and attack. The ball is only out of play 8-10% of the time compared to 34% in 11-a-side. Running back and forth for 20 minutes will improve endurance when it comes to the full-sized format, where you’ll find yourself able to run box-to-box for 90 minutes with ease.
Become a goal-scoring specialist
In futsal, goalkeepers are called into action around two to four times more than in 11 a-side football, which suggests there are more goal-scoring opportunities for attackers. But with smaller goals, players need to give it more thought on how they’re going to score rather than just hitting the ball at the target.
By perfecting your accuracy in hitting a specific part of the goal, you’ll improve your chances of becoming a regular goalscorer on the football pitch.
How to get involved
The FA provide plenty of ways to get involved with futsal, from their casual Futsal Fives leagues to their annual National Futsal festival and the structured FA National Futsal Leagues. There are also now futsal academies such as at Future Elite Sport, where you can play and train whilst studying for a degree, opening up a number of opportunities both within futsal and education.
With the popularity of futsal in England increasing, the national team have risen up to 59th in the FIFA rankings. There is even a push for futsal to become a sport at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, spearheaded by Prince Tunku Imran, President of the Commonwealth Games. Who knows, if you spend some time developing your skills, you might just be on the podium winning an Olympic gold medal in the future.