(This article was originally published on goalWA.net)
The play was fast, the team resolute and unyielding. The opposition was broken down one at a time, each caught being overly aggressive, diving-in, or as victim to the fluid passing and beautiful footwork. And to end the show, the ball was struck ruthlessly into the back of the net to gain the lead.
I became an instant fan of futsal after attending my first game. Not only is it apparent that futsal is fun to play and entertaining to watch, but it also became evident just how great it is as a developmental tool.
Futsal teaches the basics. Crisp passing, sharp shooting, fluid play (which has long inhibited American soccer even at the highest level), and tactical awareness are all there. The basics are necessary to success in futsal and therefore teach you by simply playing.
Futsal also teaches the more advanced steps, with an emphasis on foot skills. Success at foot skills seem to provide that spark that is needed to win in futsal, leading players to work on their footwork. You have not seen a game so full of step-overs, scissors and jukes until you see a game of futsal.
I am certainly not the only person who sees the greatness of futsal. Futsal was created in Uruguay around 1930 as a way to play the beautiful game without the need for a full-size pitch. Futsal then spread throughout South America. In 1985, FIFA began working on unifying and perfecting the rules to the point where futsal was fit to have a FIFA-organized world tournament. The first official FIFA Futsal World Cup was held in the Netherlands in 1989. Since 1992, a FIFA World Cup has been held every four years, most recently this past November in Thailand. One nation notably not attending in Thailand: the United States.
Why is futsal, a great learning tool that is fun to play and watch and is popular all over the world, absent in the American soccer scene?
Carl Olson and the guys at Seattle Futsal are among those trying to change that. Seattle Futsal Academy was founded in 2009 and offers leagues, tournaments, and training sessions year-round.
“Our goal is just to get people playing futsal.” Olson told me earlier this month. “We think futsal is a great game for developing skills for the field. We believe it’s a game to play as training for players, but it’s also fun to play and for parents to watch. It’s just a great game for developing players for the field.”
Seattle Futsal mainly has select and premier players. “We do want to get more recreational players and have had rec leagues in the past. Our clinics that are for U6-U10 are aimed for all levels of players. For the most part though, the players we get are pretty accomplished soccer players.”
Unlike me, Olson isn’t new to futsal. “I’ve always been really into soccer, specifically Brazilian soccer, so when I went to Brazil in high school I found futsal for the first time. I never really thought it would catch on here until a friend of mine that I grew up playing soccer with convinced me to start a league up. I just think it’s a great sport for our area and that it’s a great game. I think that it could raise the level of soccer play in our area and that’s a great thing.”
After that final, beautiful, game-changing play, with the players celebrating in the foreground, the Seattle Futsal visionary Carl Olson in the background, a cluster of journalists and photographers to my right and a packed gym of cheering attendees, I could just see what futsal in the US has the potential to be.
Read more about the state of Washington soccer at goalWA.net!