Monday, June 25, 2007


The Football Room, Part 2

Back to Futsal.

The version of the game currently being touted as a prime developmental tool is played with a smallish, hard ball, ensuring that the game is conducted almost exclusively on the carpet (or rather, the floorboards). Developing close control and quick, accurate passing is the aim, and, as I mentioned in the piece linked above, it had a small positive effect in this respect, in my own case.

The reservations I have about futsal not per se, but as a developmental tool, are the following:

1. No aerial component

Much as some might dislike the fact, football proper is played partly in the air, and skill and nous in this area is crucially important.

2. Tackling

The correct technique for a sliding tackle is, again, an important skill for young players to familiarize themselves with. In futsal, such tackles are virtually non-existent, for obvious reasons.

3. Conditions

One of the advantages of futsal, of course, is that it can be played even when the local field is waterlogged, or the wind conditions make normal football impractical. But the ability to adapt to less-than-ideal conditions is, of course, of paramount importance for a footballer.

4. Weighting of Passes

The clever through-balls of the Pirlo, Hamann and Okon variety depend on a shrewd judgement of the “resistance” offered by the grass, and the resultant slowing up of the ball. On a smoother surface, this factor is greatly lessened (interestingly, I've observed a similar problem at the Sutherland Sharks' Seymour Shaw ground, with its artifical surface, this season; many of the through-balls have been badly overhit).

The general retort to all this by the proponents of futsal is that these elements can be addressed at other times; futsal is there as part of the development process, to deal with skills, short passing and decision-making (among other things).

Fair enough. But, I am always inclined to think, small-pitch five-a-side ticks all of the above boxes while offering most (if not quite all) of the benefits offered by futsal.

In other words, futsal strikes me as a good developmental tool, but not by any means an essential one.

There are others. Positioning, making runs, proper crossing etc. are all elements of the game missing in Futsal.

In general I agree that its a good tool, but we mustn't be blind to its deficiencies.
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