Futsal: One of the World's Great Sports, and the Best Skill-Developer for Youth
By Tim Sheldon
Futsal is gaining rapid popularity in the U.S. because it adapts so well to existing facilities. For instance, it is now being played in gymnasiums throughout the country by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Anywhere you have a basketball gym, from Key West, Fla., to Ketchikan, Alaska, you can play Futsal, and you can play it on outdoor courts, as well.
Futsal is one of the world's great skill-developers for youth players. Pele, Zico and Socrates of Brazilian World Cup fame grew up playing the game, and Brazil's recent World Cup stars, Romario and Bebeto, have played it extensively. Ronaldo played it until he was 16. Futsal is an ingeniously condensed version of the outdoor game that preserves the outdoor game's true time and space relationships. The ball-handling speed and skill and quick thinking of Futsal translate directly to the outdoor game - around both goals and in the thick of midfield battle.
(Photo: Ronaldo developed his skills playing futsal.)
There are three Futsal organizations in the U.S. at the moment: the Super F League, U.S. Court Soccer Federation and U.S. Futsal Federation. The Super F League is affiliated with U.S. Soccer and FIFA. The U.S. Court Soccer Federation in affiliated the the Asociación Mundial de Futsal, the original governing body for Futsal in the world. The U.S. Futsal Federation was at one time affiliated with U.S. Soccer and FIFA but has no affiliation at the moment.
Futsal is the best form of soccer for the inner city. Witness the Boys and Girls Clubs. It can be played in the concrete surfaces of inner city elementary school playgrounds where there aren't even basketball hoops. It can be played in the basketball gyms of rural areas where the winters are long and harsh. It can be played in downtown Brooklyn or in an Indian village in Alaska. And it can be played in world-championship conditions in 20,000-seat arenas. If you compare it logistically to basketball, you're correct. The staging, the sightlines, the pace, and the television potential of Futsal are the same as basketball. But, as noted, Futsal is even more adaptable to inner city conditions than basketball.
Futsal is excellent for children with physical and mental disabilities, as well. The specially-designed Futsal ball is smaller than the outdoor ball (size three compared to size four or five) and has less bounce. (Note: a size four has been used in international play.)
How to Play
All you need to play the game officially is a basketball court, two indoor goals and the correct ball. If you don't have that you can use any surface, a couple of jackets and any ball. Walls and artificial surface are not necessary. Official Futsal goals have a width of 10 feet and height of seven feet, but any indoor goals would suffice. A set of cones at either end can work well at the beginning.
Each goal is fronted by a 13-foot penalty area. You can use tape or chalk to mark it in. There is no need for further marking, since the existing side and end lines and center circle of basketball courts are used.
There is no need to push seats back to create walls. Spectators can sit, watch and cheer the same as they would in basketball. Parents and coaches who have been used to standing indoors and out would enjoy the convenience.
The most important ingredient is the ball. It is basically a Size 3, having a circumference of 20-22 inches and weight of 14-18 ounces. A Size 4 has been used in professional league and international play. The ball has less bounce and tends to stay in play. There are no more out-of-bounds plays in Futsal than there are in basketball. A smaller, lighter ball is available for younger players. Futsal balls are now available pretty much anywhere, including the Super F League Store. When in doubt, you can buy a regular Size 3 ball, lower the pressure a little and use it on any basketball court. Some kids like to pull a tennis ball out of their pocket during recess and kick it around on an outdoor basketball court.
And refereeing? Any capable outdoor referee can do it easily. The basic rules of soccer are the same.