The great glove debate
Everybody knows the feeling of packing a bag for a kick-about with friends, only to arrive at the game and realise that you, the goalkeeper, have forgotten the gloves you so desperately need. Or is it possible to play without them? At the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, some custodians currently use gloves but others do not. Is there a reason for that? What advantage could there be to playing with 'free' hands?
Upon closer inspection of the game, there are a few details that indicate that it does make sense to play without gloves. First of all, the futsal ball is slightly smaller than a regular football, making it easier to hold without needing the added grip of gloves. Furthermore, in futsal many shots are fired at speed from close range, so goalkeepers are only interested in keeping the ball out, rather than catching it, thereby reducing the danger of it slipping through their fingers.
Moreover, a futsal goalkeeper has much more involvement in the action. The ball has to be thrown out to a team-mate quickly and accurately, and doing so with bare hands is obviously a little easier. "I feel more comfortable without gloves," said Spain shot-stopper Paco Sedano. "I can't hold on to the ball as well when I wear gloves."
Old habits die hard His Colombian counterpart Carlos Nanez echoed those sentiments: "Without gloves I have a much better feel for the ball when I put it back in play, when I throw it. It's just easier to be accurate." So why, then, do some goalkeepers still wear gloves?
Russia's Gustavo, considered among the best futsal goalkeepers in the world, is one of those who always uses them. "I grew up in Porto Alegre and we usually played outside," explained the 37-year-old. "When it was cold then I couldn't play without gloves. Now it's just something I'm used to, so I keep doing it."
Humans are creatures of habit - which are hard break once they have been established. Rabie Zaarie, Morocco's goalkeeper, agreed: "I grew up playing normal football on grass and always used gloves. Maybe it is actually better to play without them, but it's too late for me to change now."
Gaining experienceA great deal of training is required in order to change, but one man who has succeeded in doing so is Colombia's No1. "I started out playing 11-a-side and obviously wore gloves then," said Nanez. "After I'd tried out both options, I prefer not using them."
An effort to change is therefore certainly worthwhile, but ultimately it is up to each individual to determine their personal preference. Zaarie also brought up another interesting detail: "In Morocco it's normal to wear gloves. Maybe that shows that we still need to develop further."
Futsal as a whole is likewise still progressing. The sport's first World Cup only took place 27 years ago, while goalkeepers and their coaches still lack experience, a quality that can be gained by participating at future tournaments. And any fan who realises they have forgotten their gloves at a kick-about with friends can now say: 'I'll give it a try without them.'