Futsal always in expansion
By FERNANDO LARRAÑAGA , coach of the Futsal team of Boca Juniors and Argentina's Futsal National Team. He attended all three World Cups and the three South American Tournaments.
Indoor football is an old sport. Historians consider that it saw the light in Uruguay in 1932, wherefrom it passed to Brazil after a short period. Nevertheless, its boom occurred in the northern countries of Europe and other latitudes where it is very cold. Climate and the early setting of the sun led people to engulf massively in games played under a roof.
During half a century, Five-a-side football was conducted widely apart from the sport played in the field. In 1986, FIFA came to a conclusion, "Everything that is a football expression in the world belongs to us". Consequently, the Five-a-side football Commission was founded, enhancing the category within its lines. At that time, Futsal was ruled by another entity, FIFUSA (Futsal International Federation). As FIFA took the reins of the under-a-roof game, instructions were imparted to all National Associations worldwide, so as to create leagues and competitions, and above all, to take charge of the specialty that had befallen under their orbit.
This circumstance has marked a before and afterwards in Five-a-side football. At the beginning, FIFUSA's level of play was superior to that of FIFA; nevertheless, the situation underwent a reversal and at present, the better organization, most powerful teams and most spectacular players fall within FIFA's jurisdiction.
Brazil, first World Champion
The first International Five-a-side Football Tournament was organized in Brasilia in 1987 and it was a good experience to prove each of the participants' standing. Two years later, with the experience acquired, FIFA organized the First World Championship in the Netherlands, Brazil attaining the title defeating the home team by 2-1.
Everybody took advantage of Brazil's experience to draw conclusions. One of them was that field players, no matter how excellent they might be, could turn out less spectacular when confronted with five-a-side football. Brazil presented some consecrated footballers in the field, such as Ricardo Gomes, green-and-yellow captain in Italy '90, wing Mauricinho and half Pedrinho. They did not rise to the expectations awakened in the public, whereas the Netherlands appeared with a lineup that was exclusively made up by Futsal players.
The same thing happened with Hungary in 1989. All the members of its Senior National Team of eleven players were summoned for the tournament and they met with a complete failure. They are two different ways of playing football.
World Cups Hong Kong 1992 and Spain 1996 came next. Brazil was once again crowned in both of them. Consequently, when the time comes for the fourth universal competition to be staged in Guatemala, the Green-and-yellow National team will spare no efforts to win the triple championship.
The latest South American, a boom
The first South American Championship, a Preliminary for the World Cup, was disputed in Aracajú, Brazil, in 1992. Only 4 teams participated (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador, in that order), thus bearing testimony that as far a FIFA's level was concerned, it was started practically from scratch. Nevertheless, in the second competition -Niteroi 1996- , there were six attendees (Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Venezuela). It must be pointed out in this connection that it was precisely that Five-a-side Football started to be known as Futsal as from the Niteroi Tournament. In order to unify the denomination, FIFA decided upon a universal name that would be easily pronounced in all languages.
The top level this sport has presently evinced last April in Foz do Iguaçu, was enlivened by 9 teams. In fact, they should have been ten. Colombia was forced to withdraw from the competition at the last moment, due to political problems alien to its will. Colombia has a great potential in this matter and it would have made an excellent contribution.
Some of the participating national teams evinced an amazing improvement, as Venezuela and Bolivia, that made the final round. Argentina exhibited a remarkable growth due to the fact that several of its men are playing in the European professional environment and they have acquired a much higher level. Paraguay deserves special praise, and though unfortunately it will not participate in the World Cup, it keeps on improving.
Leagues keep expanding
One of Futsal's expanding factors in our continent is that each country's local championships have grown in importance. For example, in Argentina, in 1991, we only had eight teams. At present, in AFA, we have the Division of Honour with 18 clubs (Boca Juniors, River Plate, San Lorenzo, Argentinos Juniors, Newell's Old Boys, Rosario Central, etc.) and the First Division of Promotion has 16 participants.
The same thing is happening in Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay. The increase in the number of players, teams and public is spectacular. AFA's last balance reflects the fact that Futsal sold more tickets than the "C" and "D" promotion divisions together. I am referring to big football.
This is what allows us to be optimistic in relation to Guatemala's World Cup, to be disputed between November 18 and December 3. Brazil, once again, is the favourite to win the title, but this time Argentina also hopes to be among the first four. Uruguay was fifth in Spain '96, and probably has similar expectations.
Futsal's spectacular performance
The big secret of vibration, rhythm and liveliness of the game under a roof lies in the regulations. Pushing, charging of any type, throwing at a mate's feet to sweep the ball are totally forbidden. All these are offences and offences are accumulated. On rising to five, free kicks are without barriers and at a maximum distance of 10 metres. This is known as a double penalty. That is why everybody takes special care in behaving rightly; there are scarcely no fouls and the footballer plays freely, ready to create, attack, only thinking of how to net the ball. Fears are non-existent.
The game is pure, many goals are scored and there is no time to get bored because the rhythm is always topmost. Besides, no speculation on time is possible because the game is played at net time. There are two stages of 20 net minutes. When there is a stationary ball (goal kick, throws-in, fouls) there are 4 seconds to put the ball back in play.
Substitutions are allowed permanently with no limitation whatsoever; hence there are no possibilities of physical exhaustion. The pitches measure 40 by 20 metres, so that all players are able to get to the net and score, goalkeeper included. All participants enjoy the game. As to the spectators, they know that the show is secure. And the players enjoy the game much more than in the field. Here there are no bumps or speculative tactics. They are useless. For example, Italy plays against Brazil with backward passes and Brazil kills the Italians with kicks from outside. After a couple of kicks, Italy has to get out and Brazil finds the space needed to pursue its game in a better way.
Tobias, the Pele of Futsal
The upcoming World Championship hosted by Guatemala will be seen by a great number of viewers through a major TV network. The public will be able to appreciate the good qualities of this specialty. Viewers will be delighted with Manuel Tobías, the best Futsal Player in the world. This young man, at present, 26 years of age, appeared at 18 in the Hong Kong World Championship, dazzling the audience.
He is a fine boy and a talented, creative, skilful player with an excellent shot with both legs. He is defender, playmaker and scorer. Tobías tried his luck in the field, in Palmeiras, and was successful, though he preferred to go back to Futsal.
I am convinced that Futsal's future will be extraordinary. "Futsal is the Football of the future", said João Havelange in Holland '89. The evolution we are seeing today moves us to think that he was right.