“Futsal is the perfect answer to the modern urban environment. With space at a premium it offers a solution, just look at Japan where they play on top of skyscrapers.”
Whether you fancy taking a throw-in on the edge of a 500ft drop or not, Jack Harrison of Calthorpe Futsal has a strong argument for the widespread introduction of the game in this country.
With inner city space tough to come by, England lagging in the world game due to a dearth in close ball control, the potential for futsal to become huge in England has never been greater.
Invented by Jaun Carlos Ceriani in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1930, Futsal is a quintessentially South American game developed in built up areas on a pitch the size of a basketball court.
It is played with a smaller, size four ball with reduced bounce, there are kick-ins, smaller, thinner goals and teams are penalised for accumulating fouls. The distinctions between the game and its 5-a-side counterpart are instantly discernable with one glance at some Youtube highlights – its tactics and style are more akin to an 11-a-side game.
Whilst working for Street League – a charity that looks to reduce re-offending and substance abuse and achieves qualifications through football – Harrison thought Futsal was a game better suited to urban environments and to Street League’s participants by its “less focus on aggression more on skills” nature.
The Londoner’s interest was piqued by former FA manager of small-sided football, Dermot Collins, after he gave a presentation on Futsal. Harrison was inspired to find out more and secured funding from The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to further his knowledge abroad.
In 2007 he embarked on an adventure which took him to Brazil and Japan to study their approaches to the game. On his return Harrison filed a report The Development of Futsal in the UK, an insightful proposal document bustling with passion for the sport.
The FA’s recently published Future Games report intimates shared thinking on Futsal, highlighting the trend in the world game to a faster and more ‘technical’ pace.
Calthorpe Futsal boasts the UK’s first outdoor pitch on Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross, within the complex of registered charity, The Calthorpe Project.
Harrison hopes to set up leagues and a programme of use for the whole community.
“We intend to start leagues,” said Harrison. “It’s going to be a place where kids can train as well as develop and promote Futsal as a whole.
“Seeing the Brazilian futsal team in full flow you see people at the peak of their game. They are Futsal players in their own right and the speed of thought and passing is unbelievable.
“It is also incredible to see how the Japanese have progressed; 30 years ago they had eight outdoor pitches, now they have 1,700 and have a professional league” he added. “Their climate is more like England [than Brazil] and prefer to play outdoors and you can see the impact it’s had on the national side with their performances in the last few World Cups.”
SO WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR THE GAME IN ENGLAND?
“I’m increasingly finding there’s two schools of thought within The FA,” explained Harrison. “Firstly, there’s a group very resistant to change who think ‘we invented the game, we know it and don’t need to know anything more’ and there are those who are innovative and want to push the game forward.”
England are currently languishing 76 in world Futsal but The FA hopes that by driving the game at grassroots and county level it can up its profile. Harrison believes that shifting the mentality towards incorporating Futsal into the national game will be a difficult task and is targeting self-sufficient leagues that do not need to “go cap in hand to the FA” for funding.
Whether English Futsal can find a snowball effect through a high-profile player like Ronaldinho remains to be seen. But with Brazil set to host the 2014 football World Cup, you can bet the game is likely to find the spotlight more and more.
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Tags: Calthorpe Futsal, Community Matters, Futsal, Ronaldinho