According to several different studies, futsal is one of the fastest growing sports on the planet , with about two million players, both men and women, officially registered. Even more impressive, however, is the estimated 30 million people who are thought to play indoor football in one form or another.
It comes as no surprise then the number of national football associations embracing futsal is growing all the time. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Nordic states of Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, who, thanks to a Finnish initiative backed by FIFA and UEFA, took part in the inaugural Nordic Futsal Seminar in Helsinki between 30 and 31 January 2007.
The aim of the seminar was to provide the four invited countries with an overview of the game and its many advantages, and to demonstrate the excellent commercial opportunities that it can bring with the correct infrastructure in place.
Jaime Yarza, the Head of Futsal and Beach Soccer Development at FIFA, told the seminar: "With the incorporation of these countries into the futsal family, we'll close the circle in Europe, making it the first confederation in which all member countries participate in futsal's continental competitions. It's an example for the rest of the world to follow, and explains why European sides have been so successful in the FIFA Futsal World Championships."
Echoing his sentiments was Petr Fousek, chairman of the UEFA Futsal Committee, who said: "It's a sport that can provide a lot of opportunities for success for small countries, especially if the correct decisions are taken at the outset and if associations decide to structure futsal within a professional framework."
A joint effort
That the initiative came from Finland will not surprise followers of the game. The country is the most active in the region in futsal terms and boasts a solid 13-team league, the representatives of which have been competing in the UEFA European Futsal Championship since 1999. And while the country's sides have not yet had a major success at European level, their sustained development is an example to any emerging futsal nation.
Very keen to follow in Finnish footsteps was Henrik Andersen of the Danish Football Association, who said: "We have a development plan to introduce futsal gradually. The idea is to organise a league this year and to take part in the UEFA Futsal Championship from 2008 onwards." Thorvaldur Ingimundarson of the Icelandic FA was even more ambitious. "Next season we'll have futsal teams at every age level in the country," he predicted confidently.
Over in Norway and Sweden, the development of the game is likely to take a little longer. "We're still a few years away from establishing futsal here in our country, but we want to get a league up and running as soon as possible," assured Dag Riisnaes of the Norwegian FA. Sweden's Ulf Lindberg, for his part, declared: "We've been organising futsal matches for two years now, and we have several youth teams. The time has now come to plan for the future."