In Brazil, kids at an early age are playing futsal, a game similar to five-a-sides but with slight changes to the rules, ball and pitch. This is what many Brazilian players, such as Neymar and Ronaldinho, attribute their skill to. Having played this, they have developed fantastic technique and clever passing. Youth players could benefit from this game a lot, as it can offer similar results to the four versus four system and more.
The rules of futsal are simple. It is usually played indoors with a heavier size four ball which has 30% less bounce than a regular ball. The pitch is smaller than a normal five-a-side pitch, and there are boundaries on the pitch. Instead of a throw-in, there is a kick-in and if a team commits six fouls the opposition are automatically awarded a direct free kick. These rules can help develop youth players from a young as they promote creativity and good ball control.
Futsal started in Brazil and Uruguay in the 1930’s, as a solution to there not being enough pitches. It is just as popular as football in Brazil, but does have fewer spectators. The game is now played in many countries around the world including Spain, Portugal and Italy. Players such as Messi and Piqué played the game when they were young. Cristiano Ronaldo also grew up playing futsal, saying "The small playing area helped me improve my close control, and whenever I played futsal I felt free. If it wasn't for futsal, I wouldn't be the player I am today."
Futsal in Scotland started in Perth in 1997, and now there are three divisions with 20 teams and more than 200 players playing. The Scottish FA runs a national Vauxhall Schools Futsal programme at secondary schools across the country aimed at increasing participation of 12-18 year olds in football, and there are plans for more Futsal based events in the future.
Futsal can offer many benefits to player’s developments, such as better control with the ball. Futsal encourages team work and involves every player in a game, unlike 11 a side where a player can finish a game having only had a few touches. This means players can get a lot more out of a game in training, in more ways than one. As players are constantly moving, they are always changing position on the field. This encourages players to develop attacking and defensive skills, rather than only learning how to defend or attack. The advantages of having a defender that is comfortable on the ball and can play great balls is clear, and every team can benefit from having attacking players which can also get back and defend well.
The size of the pitch and the added boundaries also offer players benefits, as it offers less margin for error. Players are forced to make sure their touch is controlled and are encouraged to play shorter passes, rather than punting the ball up the field. This can encourage a more controlled fast paced game, rather than a chaotic mess of poor passes. It will also improve passing, as players will not only learn to pass more, but to use skills to get out of tricky situations.
Futsal can ultimately benefit 11 a side football, as players will develop better skills as we see with the Spanish and Brazilian national teams. Introducing this at a young age will hopefully produce better players for Scotland in the future. It may not be as simple as this, but it will surely contribute to player’s ability in a positive way.