What Is Futsal? This. Is. Futsal
January 24, 2019
Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Iniesta, Neymar and both Ronaldos grew up playing futsal. So too did Pele.
Some of the greatest players to have ever graced a football pitch credit futsal with honing their natural talent.
Yet futsal is a sport in its own right, and it doesn’t always benefit from the association. This is because many make the assumption that futsal is just a training tool for footballers. Like other minority sports such as handball, floorball, and bandy, those involved are extremely passionate about the game.
Damon Shaw is an English futsal manager who is currently Head Coach and Technical Director of Swieqi United, a professional futsal team, based in Malta.
“Futsal is a huge sport all over the world, especially in Latin and Eastern European countries,” says Shaw. “It has its own unique fan base and culture, and, for some, it’s as big as any other sport.
“The game has all the beauty of football, but multiplied by 10. Imagine a version of football, but with the transient moments of basketball: end-to-end, chance after chance, loads of 1v1s, dribbles and counter-attacks galore and played at a high intensity from start to finish. That’s futsal.”
You may be thinking, that sounds great! Or, perhaps, ok, but you might still not understand the basics – what is futsal?
Never fear, we’ve created this quick guide to the history, rules, and the betting opportunities that futsal affords.
What is Futsal?
First thing’s first – what kind of game is futsal?
The short answer is an ‘indoor, five-a-side Brazilian-rules football’. However, there is much more to it than that.
For a kick-off, the game actually originated in Uruguay, way back in 1930!
Juan Carlos Ceriani, a teacher in Montevideo, adapted five-a-side football for youth competitions in YMCAs, which could be played on basketball courts.
All you needed was a court, two small hockey-sized goals, and, crucially, a less-bouncy ball which wouldn’t put off those who didn’t want balls bouncing against their walls. Three years later a rule book was published.
However, it was not until the 1980s that futsal got its name.
Alexander Para, then with the U.S. Minisoccer Federation, wanted a name that would be universally recognised, and noticed that many of the Latin and European counties used similar sounding words for soccer – ‘futebol’ and ‘salon’ or ‘sala’ for ‘room’ or ‘indoor’. Merging these words together, he came up with futsal, and it was adopted by the U.S Futsal in 1987.
In 1989, Para’s name for the sport was accepted by FIFA, who renamed its proposed ‘FIFA Five-a-Side World Championship’, which was to be held in Hong Kong in 1992, to the FIFA Futsal World Championship.
The incumbent President of FIFA at the time, Dr Havelange, then had the term included in Article 27, which states: “The committee for soccer that is played in reduced areas called Salon Soccer or Five-a-Side, shall from now on be called FUTSAL.”
Basic Futsal Rules
We’ve learned that futsal is a five-a-side game and it’s usually, although not always, played indoors, but what are some of the other rules which differentiate the game for traditional five-a-side football?
- It’s played with a smaller ball (size four) with reduced bounce
- There are four outfield players and one goalkeeper on each team
- However, the goalkeeper can also play outfield
- Each match lasts 40 minutes – comprised of two halves of 20 minutes each
- Half-time lasts 15 minutes
- The clock stops whenever the ball goes out of play
- And only starts again when play resumes
- Each team is allowed one time out per half
- But no time outs in the game goes to extra time
- There is no such thing as offside in futsal
Because it’s a shorter game, played on a small court by two teams of five, futsal is fast!
A flurry of goals can be scored in a matter of moments, meaning every second counts, and any errors can prove extremely costly.
Futsal also employs rolling substitutions, so a player picking up a knock can rejoin the game if he or she feels able to. This also means all of the players in a squad are likely to get far more game time than in a football team.
Finally, rolling subs gives the managers the ample opportunity to constantly bring ‘fresh legs’ on so the players on the pitch can maintain their high energy and intensity.
It is this that makes futsal such an exciting spectator sport, whilst the fact that futsal is usually played indoors also precludes games being called off due to bad weather.
So, who are the best futsal players in the world?
Tournaments and Trophies
Unsurprisingly, it’s Brazil, who are currently number one in the official futsal world rankings.
The first international futsal tournament took place in 1965, with Paraguay the victors of the inaugural South American Cup. However, Brazil then won the next six.
Still, it took another 20 years for the first FIFA Futsal World Cup to be played, in the Netherlands in 1989. Once again, it was Brazil who triumphed, beating the hosts 2-1 in the Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam.
The tournament has been played every four years since then, with the next FIFA Futsal World Cup due to be held in Lithuania, in 2020.
It will be the first time a European country has hosted the event since 1996, and only the third in Europe since the competition’s inception.
Argentina are the reigning champions, having beaten Russia 5-4 in the 2016 final.
Other opportunities for silverware come in the form of the Euros (European Futsal Championships) and the FA Futsal Super League, where the winners qualify for the UEFA Futsal Champions League. Here the likes of FC Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon regularly compete.
The England futsal team may not be quite as well known as Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions, but the team has started to make their presence felt on the international stage.
Currently ranked 47th in the world (below the Soloman Islands), they are often the underdogs, but have shown that they are capable of competing with some of the top nations in friendlies.
In terms of trophies, England won the Home Nations trophy in 2017, and successfully defended their crown in 2018.
However, they’ve yet to reach the dizzying heights of the World Cup or the Euros.
Can England qualify for the 2020 Futsal World Cup? Watch this space!
Where Can I Bet on Futsal?
As we’ve said, futsal is played across the globe, and there are some prestigious prizes to play for.
Besides the World Cup and the Euros, there are a wide range of domestic and international matches played throughout the year, giving you all the futsal betting odds you could ever wish for.
So, why not take a punt on this fast and furious sport?
Find the bookmakers offering the best futsal betting odds
A Boro fan from birth, Elle is a qualified sports journalist and the former editor of the now-defunct sports site ComeOnBoro.com and Sporting Preview. Her work and strong opinions have been published in The News of the World, The Observer and BBC Tees Radio. After work in PR, Elle returned to her roots as a copywriter as a Content and SEO Editor at ActiveWin Media.