In its latest round-up of events in the world of futsal, reports on the training seminars and tournaments that have been taking place around the globe over the last two months, including European qualifiers for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, to be held this November.

A four-day FIFA course for futsal referees and coaches was organised in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the end of March. Led by Scott Gilligan of Australia and Asselam Khan of Mozambique, FIFA instructors in coaching and refereeing respectively, the futsal course was the first staged by world football’s governing body in the country since 2004. Attracting 60 participants in all, it aroused a good deal of optimism in the future of South African futsal.

“We had a few problems to overcome in getting this course up and running, but I’m happy we’ve been able to make this knowledge available to the participants, who have come from all over the country,” said the chairman of the South African Football Association’s (SAFA) Futsal Committee Aubrey Baartman.

“Thanks to this course we can create a solid core of coaches and referees and raise playing standards at a regional level. We can also form a strong nucleus of players who can go on to represent the country with the national team.”

A number of other courses have taken place around the world in the last three months, starting in Asia, where refereeing courses were held in Iran and Kyrgyzstan, where the instructor noted a significant improvement in standards since the previous course in 2010.

In the Caribbean an introductory futsal course was organised in Bermuda, while coaches in Tunisia and Sudan had training events laid on for them as part of plans to develop the game in both countries. Tunisia, for example, is looking to set up a coaching badge system and create a youth-team structure at club level, while Sudan is aiming to promote the game in schools. A further course was also held in South Africa.

Futsal across the globe
The prelminary competition for the AFC Futsal Championship came to a conclusion in February as Thailand, Indonesia and Australia booked their places in the Asian finals.

The qualifiers for the AFC Futsal Club Championship were also held in late March. Games were played in the East Asia/ASEAN and West Asia/South and Central Zones and saw Thai Son Nam (Vietnam), GH Bank RBAC (Thailand), Ardus (Uzbekistan) and Al Rayyan SC (Qatar) all make it through.

Logrono provided the venue for the Spanish Cup play-offs at the end of March, with Barcelona Alusport’s defeat of Lobelle Santiago in the final capping a tournament that proved a major financial success and attracted a lot of attention in the media. The Italian Cup final was held at the same time in Padua, with Asti Acqua Viva overcoming Alter Ego Luparense to claim the trophy.

The qualifying competition for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 reached its finale the following month. Spain, Italy, Russia, Portugal, Ukraine, Serbia and Czech Republic were the seven teams to make it through to the world finals, where they will be joined by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia, the four sides to advance from the South American qualifiers, also held in April.

Finally, women’s futsal took centre stage in Bahrain as the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship took place. Taking the honours in the seven-team tournament were Iran, the inaugural winners in 2008, who saw off Jordan in the final.

What they said
We never used to take this sport seriously in South Africa, but we’ve put real strategies in place and we’re now giving it the attention it deserves. The futsal side is one of the ten national teams we have here in South Africa, and it’s so important to develop the game. We’ll be setting up local leagues in the future to offer a way into the sport,” Serame Letsoaka, SAFA’s Technical Director.

“It’s a game you can play in any school gym, and it’s an easy sport for people who’ve never played to get involved in. Some people play futsal to complement their football training, and others see it as a sport in its own right,” David Payne, Head of Futsal at the New Zealand Football Association.

“Futsal teaches children about good ball control, speed and stamina, and about the need to think on their feet and use their instinct, which is important in this game. Reaching a good level in futsal helps you do the same in football,” Datuk Soh Chin Aun, former captain of Malaysia’s national football team.

Coming up
FIFA will be organising three courses for futsal coaches in China, New Zealand and Germany in May.

The first of this month’s international tournaments is the Victory Day Women’s Cup in Moscow, to be contested by Russia, Portugal, Iran and Hungary. Taking place later in May is the 12th AFC Futsal Championship in Dubai. A total of 16 nations will be competing in the event, with the top four going forward to represent Asia at Thailand 2012.