Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Futsal Provides The Technicians That Football Needs
There is this video on Youtube showing the Brazilian midfielder Philipe Coutinho getting hold of the ball, slaloming past three defenders and then slamming the ball past the goalkeeper. It is a wonderful expression of his skill and technical mastery; the fluidity of execution breathe taking.
Yet, in this video Coutinho isn’t in a Liverpool shirt. Nor is he playing for Inter or Espanyol. Indeed, he isn’t even playing on a football pitch. Instead this is a very young Coutinho – probably in his early teens – and the game he’s playing is futsal. It was there, on the small and narrow pitch and using a smaller ball, that he refined the skills that he now uses to float past defenders across the Premier League.
Futsal, the game developed in Uruguay but which rapidly spread to Brazil, is increasingly gaining popularity in Europe. Whereas in South America its popularity was down to the solution it offered to the lack of grass fields, in Europe it is another problem – the skills learning that has been lost with the disappearance of street football – that it is solving. An increasing number of clubs have latched on to its potential are now incorporating futsal in their academy training.
In doing so, they are copying something that has been the standard in Brazil for generations. “Most Brazilian clubs use futsal to help develop players; Santos, Fluminense, Vasco, Flamengo and many others. They have academy teams who will compete futsal leagues until they are 14-15 when they will start their transition to football.”
So says Marcos Sorato, also known as Pipoca. Currently at MFK Tyumen in Russia, he coached Brazil to the FIFA World cup title last year, beating Spain in the final held in Thailand. He is also director of futsal at Escolla Futsal and his expertise has been a key figure for the Escolla team in their quest to develop youth Futsal in England.
“I was a player who enjoyed the tactical side,” he replies when asked what it was that drove him to become a futsal coach. “As soon as I stopped playing, I became an assistant manager for one year and then first team manager the next year. I was lucky that on the third year I was invited into the Brazilian national team where I was the assistant manager for eight years and afterwards became the manager.”
That was a huge honour, but also a huge responsibility given that Brazil are one of the foremost nations in the game. “We worked with a group of 25-30 players who were monitored and would be selected depending on their performance and efficiency.”
“Brazil is the only team national team to have top players available in Europe and Brazil and that is why our monitoring program was more extensive.”
Now he is back in Europe. “I played for 13 years in Spain and two more years as a coach. Spain and Russia already have great and competitive leagues alongside Italy and Portugal.”
“England is starting to have interest but is small compared to other adult leagues. However the popularity among the youth is growing. Many are looking to use futsal to form future football players.”
What is it, then, that makes futsal so good at helping players develop? What does it help teach? “Without a doubt I would say quick thinking, fast decision making, a higher demand of technique to solve problems in small spaces,” replies Marcos. “It helps the player to think about the game and to learn how to defend and attack. The player needs to be complete.”
What it does not do is “coach the offside rule, but they can learn this when they transition to football. All the rest is transferable and useful in football.”
“There are many examples of players who have transitioned from one game to the other. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar, Deco, Coutinho, Juninho Paulista, Alex, and many others.”
The big question, then, is whether futsal and regulation football can co-exist. The increasing availability of futsal pitches and the declining standards of public football pitches in England means that one is growing at the expense of the other.
“In Brazil they both co-exist for over 30 years now. Many talented football players have come from futsal. And many football players have continued playing just futsal instead.”
“Futsal needs investment and I am sure it will form many players but it also has its own stream, because there is public and athletes for this. It is a shame that FIFA and other bodies don't see it that way.”
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Thanks to Rodrigo Baccin and the people at Escolla Futsal for their help in setting up this interview. Photo on top of article by Heiwa4126.