Futsal, Futsala or Futebol de Salão, is a game played on a field the same size of a basketball court. It is played with a smaller sized ball (size 2 or 3), which is heavier in weight (roughly 465g) and has virtually no bounce. The game has been valorized for its ability to create an environment in which players will gain 600% more touches on the ball and has single handedly developed the ‘natural ability’ of some of the world’s best players. The truth is that there is nothing ‘natural’ about it! Futsal, its rules, pitch size, ball size, squad size etc etc etc has and will continue to create and nurture the best footballing talent in the world.
So why on earth are we not copying the formula of soccer success?
Tonight, England will take on Scotland in the World Cup Qualifiers and I couldn’t be any less excited if I tried! And I’m not the only one. Adrian Durham, football journalist and broadcaster, slammed the England national squad selection and felt Southgate’s choices were ‘unimpressive and underwhelming’. As a Scotland fan, of course my home nation, I would love to tell you how eager I am to watch the game but truly I couldn’t give two monkeys! Sure, an underdog story is on the cards but in reality tonight’s fixture only shows the poor quality of player that both nations have produced in the past two, maybe three, decades. Where is Denis Law, King Kenny Dalglish, Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone, Dave McKay, Billy Bremner, Jim Baxter and the list goes on! Guys who could dribble a ball around 10 men in a telephone box! Where has it gone? There is no one in the England squad or the Scotland squad that excites me or entertains a crowd the way that those guys could, and it worries me and has done for years!
Fancy fields at Toryglen in Glasgow, the Orium in Edinburgh, St George’s Park just outside London and even the newly built Wembley Stadium haven’t produced or even witnessed players like the legends of old (auld) listed above. It’s sad. We spend our time and effort focusing on big budgets, and the need to fund this and the need to fund that when all that the single greatest footballing nation in the world are doing is sitting there with their thumbs up their arses as young boys and girls, of their own accord, grab a ball, create some make shift goals and play the game for the games sake! That single greatest footballing nation I am referring to is of course the mighty Canarinho, the Verde-Amarela, Pentacampeões…..The Brazilian National Football Team.
5 times World Champions. I’ll repeat that. 5 times World Champions.
We know how they’re doing it. I’ll repeat that. We know how they are doing it. But we appear to continue with the dull and utterly tedious notion that this formula cannot be repeated in Scotland. Why?
“We don’t get the right weather in Scotland”
“The kids are nae interested anymere!”
“It’s in the genes, you’ve either goat it or you’ve no!”
Pish!! How many times have you sat in a pub and heard this nonsense!
Jimmy Johnstone had it, Jim Baxter had it. In the month of June 1967, after winning the European cup, 100,000 fans at the Bernabéu Stadium stood and applauded the wee man, and couldn’t give a jot about Alfredo Di Stefano. Jimmy stole the show with an unforgettable performance that had even the Madrid supporters chanting “Olé!” throughout the game in appreciation of his marvelous flair and footwork.
Now I realise Jimmy was special, and I may be asking too much but we done it once, in fact we’ve produced these players time and time again, so why has production stopped?
In the same year Jimmy had the Bernabéu on its feet, Jim Baxter had Wembley Stadium up in arms. Baxter teased the newly crowned World Champions by keeping the ball in the air mid game before passing it on to Denis Law, who probably wondered if he was ever going to give the ball up. Now if any Scottish player was to replicate Baxter’s cheeky keepie uppy trick this evening I would be most willing to run down the pub to watch the game, but it simply won’t happen.
It’s like we’ve forgotten how to play, or indeed why we played in the first place and I believe Futsal holds the answers to our questions.
More contact time with the ball, keeping control of it in tighter, smaller spaces creating an environment in which decision making is the principle focus. The decisions you make in the game and the faster you can think is the only way you will out smart and beat your opponent. Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez, probably the four best players in the world right now, are all products of this small sided and simple game.
Now, Scotland has taken steps to introduce Futsal however there are still some problems. The Scottish Futsal League, founded in 1997, partnered with the Scottish FA to deliver an “Adult Futsal League structure within Scotland”. Now this is all well and good, and it is great that there are now almost 700 adults playing futsal in six leagues across Scotland however this won’t benefit our national team, or indeed our national league, in the long term. Kids are the future, and they are the ones who need to be participating in this sport if we are to develop any real future football prospects.
Give credit where credit is due, the Scottish FA have now implemented a six-hour Futsal coaching course, called ‘Introduction to Futsal’. The course is open to anyone over the age of 16 and will focus on theoretical background, including the rules and history of the sport, as well as covering the various practical techniques. Having this structure in place can only benefit our appreciation and involvement in Futsal, but is it enough? Hopefully this course will quickly develop, and with time I hope it can expand to create its own unique coaching pathway within the Scottish FA coaching structure. The good thing is that Futsal is growing in popularity and now has a place in Scottish sport but its popularity, structure and presence needs to be far greater if we are to achieve any success.
Another keen development to be admired is the set-up of the Scottish Youth Futsal Federation. The federation was founded in 2015 and was created to promote futsal in Scotland while supporting local, regional, national and, recently, international youth futsal events. The focus is on young footballers’ participation, specifically reaching out to boys and girls from U9s to U17s. During the month of September, the SYFF hosted the IFA Youth Futsal World Cup in Dundee at the Dundee International Sports Centre. This is a tremendous achievement and a huge step in the right direction. There is no doubt that young people are picking up a futsal and getting involved, but there is still more to be done. Most young players are involved at club level, and unfortunately we find that most of the time these young players will get less contact time with the ball because they are engaged in fitness sessions or SAQ, when right now at the early stages all young players need is touches of the baw (ball)!
It’s no secret that across Britain futsal has struggled to gain sponsorship and valuable financial structure however with the set-up of these organisations Scotland may just have got the leg up on the competition. Tennents’ Wellpark Brewery, a famous Glasgow brewing company, sponsors the Scottish National Futsal League and now the Scottish National Futsal Team, whilst additional support also comes from Spanish sports clothing manufacturer, Joma. Again, this shows the tremendous effort being made to develop futsal in Scotland and truly highlights the growing popularity of Scottish futsal.
I admire those who are trying to push Futsal in Scotland, because they are truly making a difference. To those who are running the Scottish Futsal League and growing the popularity of the sport, I commend you for doing what needs to be done. I strongly believe that Futsal is the answer to our problems. Not facilities or finance, just pure and simple game structure. Players need less time to think, and more time with the ball at their feet.
The success of Futsal in Scotland so far has been the organisation of the first-ever Scottish Futsal Cup, the implementation of the futsal specific coach education course, and the commitment to entering the Scotland National Futsal Team into the 2017 European Championships. These achievements highlight the work being done at all levels of the game, but we need to do so much more to gain the real, long term benefits of Futsal.
The real success, of course, would be the grand reopening of the production line that produced so many great Scottish footballers, that have been recognised the world over. It would be finding a player that can take on 2 or 3 players only to go back and take all of them on again and win. Just the way it used to be; now that would truly be a delight to see.
England v Scotland
World Cup Qualifier: Group F
11th November 2016
Kick off 7:45pm
Mon the Scotland!