Futsal may close gap for Canadian soccer
by Jesse Hove
The fast and furious sport of futsal is becoming a popular training tool for post-secondary soccer players looking to hone their skills in a sport where the season lasts only about two months.
The short season leaves the remainder of the year devoted to a variety of training and club sport options. Futsal provides another alternative, as it is a variation of soccer played indoors and gives players an opportunity to continue to build team chemistry while providing a unique form of training.
“Futsal works on more controlled touches and quicker individual foot skills in comparison with the outdoor game that tends to give you more time on the ball to make decisions,” said Ashley Dixon, Mount Royal University women’s soccer team captain and ACAC 2009 conference all-star.
The five-a-side indoor game is hugely popular in other parts of the world, and it’s current lack of popularity in Canada and the United States is the reason why many professional soccer players say North American countries get left behind in the sport.
“It’s one of the best ways to develop your skills,” said professional Italian soccer player Gaetano D’Agostino in a recent interview with the Vancouver Province.
“If you look at players in South America and Europe, the reason their players are so technically advanced is because they start playing futsal at such a young age. Indoors, it’s all quicker and faster. It really hones in on quick footwork and ball advancing skills. It develops the skills because it’s quick and contained and to find a way out you have to use a little magic.”
But the CIS leading scorer in 2010 and University of Calgary star striker Tessa Miller argues that that indoor soccer does little for her training.
“A large part of my game is using open spaces to break away from defenders,” said Miller. “When I play indoor soccer I feel like I am playing hockey more than soccer.” However Miller does agree that in comparison with other forms of indoor soccer and many other forms of training, futsal is about as good as it gets.
“Futsal is honestly the best thing that teams can do in Calgary in the winter. Unlike other forms of indoor soccer, it focuses on controlling the ball and that actually takes skill.”
Along with sporting five players a side, instead of the traditional 12, futsal also uses a slightly heavier ball which eliminates long passes and forces players to use multiple passes over shorter distances. The heavier ball also means that it is on the ground longer, so the challenge is for the player to find openings in much smaller spaces, which tests their tactical and physical ability.
Both Mount Royal University soccer teams have had success at the up-and-coming sport, with both teams winning the first ACAC futsal tournament of 2011, staged here at Mount Royal Jan. 21-23.
There are two tournaments remaining on the futsal schedule. They will take place in Olds Feb. 11-13 and at Lakeland March 4-6.