The Brazilians play it…so why not West Ham?


Futsal or Futbol Sala is indoor football played with 5 people on each team. What differentiates Futsal from the traditional English five-a-side is that it is played on a hard court indoor surface without the use of walls or boards and is played with a smaller, heavier ball which does not bounce as high as a normal football, or the traditional English indoor football (the green balls which bounce all over the place). Also, there are rules which dispel any slide tackling or shoulder barging. All of these things create an emphasis on skill, technique, improvisation and creativity.

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Some of the biggest names from Brazil credit Futsal for their successes in football. In Brazil, until you are about 13 years old, you play Futsal. After that, you can choose whether to play football, or futsal. Players such as Ronaldo, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Neymar all say that it is Futsal which has made them the players which they are today. Even when playing football, there are obvious glimpses of their futsal roots in their play. Their close control and dribbling skills are from playing futsal. Ronaldo

scored many goals for Brazil using his toe, which is a technique which is used a lot in futsal.

So Futsal is all about freestyle and Samba music? Definitely not. Futsal is arguably more demanding than football, as you can’t slow down or relax for a second, or the opposition will score. It is

extremely physically and mentally demanding. Every player must know his defensive duties and then must be able to counter attack at terrific speed. Futsal is a game which relies on teamwork and

passing. Futsal players thrive in small and confined spaces, something which the Spanish National team is also incredibly good at. Futsal is played at incredibly high speeds, with lightning fast passing and quick breaks. This means that the players must have great technical skills, otherwise they will be far out of their depths.

Futsal is not just confined to Brazil. Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time, played futsal in Rosario in Argentina when he was growing up. You could be mistaken for believing that Futsal is only a South American game, however Futsal is played in over 100 countries worldwide and although Brazil is the dominant force and creators of modern futsal, the Spaniards are European

Champions and have beaten the Brazilians twice to the World Futsal crown.


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There seems to be a pattern emerging. Brazil has always been dominant at World Cups, winning 5. Their football is based around attacking flair and creativity, with the likes of Pele, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho epitomising Brazil’s philosophy of an attacking game and showing the ability that Brazil has to create such wonderful talents. Also, the Spaniards have been credited for their wonderful and expressive football, which has led them to be dominant on the World and European stage. Spanish football comes less from futsal, but the way that Spanish players are brought up and taught leads them to becoming exceptionally good futsal players.

What futsal also does is create players who play without fear. Futsal creates players who play with all the mental and physical attributes to make them fabulous football players, who have an attack-minded philosophy and are not afraid to try things or to take risks. What many English people argue, is that growing up in Brazil, everyone plays futsal, whether on the streets in Rio, on the beach or on a pitch, everyone in Brazil plays for hours on end and that it is their culture which creates such talented players and the English game has a much different footballing philosophy which cannot change. This has an element of truth in, in Brazil there is a footballing culture which is much different to the British footballing culture. However, changing the English footballing culture is not impossible, but we have to borrow something from the Brazilians to change it.

What I and many people who play futsal believe, is that futsal has to be played with joy and passion. The fundamental part of futsal is to play with enjoyment, boldness and flair. This is why many of

the Brazilian players credit futsal so much for their footballing success. It is not just the technical skills which you learn from playing futsal, but the enjoyment which they had when playing futsal and transferring that to playing football professionally. If you watch any video of Ronaldinho playing football, there is a huge grin across his face, as to him, football has to be enjoyed and you will not reach your full potential as a player if you do not always enjoy playing.

I was lucky enough to meet the Brazilian Futsal manager, Marcos Sorato, who taught me more about futsal in a day and how to improve my game (which in turn, has dramatically improved my

footballing ability) than anyone has ever taught me. He taught me the importance of enjoyment and playing without fear and in my mind, something which is often the case for the England team

and has recently been the case at West Ham, is that players play with fear. It is no coincidence that when you look at the main playmakers in the Premier League, they are mainly foreign, as these players, who are bought for huge amounts of money, can change a game in an instant. As they play with flair and they have the boldness and often the audacity to attempt things which other players wouldn’t. Youth football is the main reason for the lack of international success in England. Both tactical constraints and lack of creativity and technically gifted players has led to a serious decline in English football. To change the English culture, futsal has to be promoted and in my opinion, there is no better way to promote futsal, than a professional club starting a team and offering futsal training for young players.


West Ham has a tradition of nurturing great English talent, but as the modern game continues to change and the Spanish dominance continues, the English national team is spiralling further downwards. A significant step forward for the English game would be to implement a system like the one in Brazil, where young players play futsal until a certain age, where they can then choose which path to follow. By doing this, we can create exceptional footballing talents, with the technical ability of the Brazilian players and rejuvenate English football. This obviously is not a quick fix, however in the long term, if this sort of system was implemented, football in England could compete with the likes of Spain and Brazil. West Ham could take a gamble, which if it paid off, would result in the development of a new breed of footballing talent in England and a significant way forward not only for English football, but for the future of West Ham.

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In recent weeks, the joy from Upton Park has been lost. The boo-boys are in full voice and the performances have been nothing to get excited about. So this last point is more of a plea than a suggestion. Bring back the fun and enjoyment of watching West Ham. For me and many West Ham fans, if we went out to play attacking football, with sweeping passing moves, we would accept a few draws. However the problem that Big Sam faces is that his philosophy is designed to win games, not to look pretty or be pleasing to the eye, but to win and unfortunately we aren’t winning. So please Sam, take the essence of the Brazilian game, let the players develop their creativity and flair, and let the joy and expression return to Upton Park.

Will Futsal ever make it in England? Have a different opinion? Tweet me @TollyCoburn

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  • Legends says:

    In Italy they have thousands of “Calcetto” pitches. They are smaller dimensions than the english 5 a side pitch, the goals are less wide but higher, the surface is usually all weather, and importantly, they are surrounded by high fencing to ensure more play time.
    Games are fast, competitive and played in good spirit and there is strong appreciation of technical flair. And less appreciation of tough tackling (as you would expect in italy).
    In Spain i noticed that they show youth football live on tv. I would suggest that increasing visibility of youth players / teams would increase focus on youth football, improve player selection, improve tactical awareness (positioning/self awareness etc).
    I also notice that there aren’t any english footballers plying their trade abroad. Or learning abroad. Perhaps I am wrong but foreign exchange programs would help young players mature culturally, open their minds and learn from internationally respected coaches from an early age.

  • team futsal says:

    England will never again win the World Cup in my lifetime. There I’ve said it.
    I’ve watched World Cups since 1982, initially in the expectation that we’d win. Alas, always to be disappointed when we failed to get further than the semis, as was the case in 1990, probably our best chance.
    However, after 1990 it seems to have become more and more difficult. From the high of 1990 to the low of 1994 when we didn’t even qualify I’m thankful to have at least witnessed qualification for successive World Cups and Euros, apart from the disappointment of Euro 2008.
    Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s watching the way the team plays compared to other more progressive nations with their exciting, attacking, possession football but I’m now resigned to never witnessing an England team win in a World Cup. Expectation has not been replaced even with hope, but rather a realistic acceptance of failure.
    Even, against all odds, if England we’re able to produce a real ‘Golden Generation’ of players I believe the deep mental scars of failed penalty shoot-outs will hinder us. England players just don’t have ‘the bottle’!
    As well as watching the game, I’m a keen player myself. I ran a Sunday League team for 10 years, which entailed dealing with the FA indirectly through the County FA for our region (London then Essex). Not the best experience as they were more interested in collecting fines than helping to improve our team and facilitates.
    Slowly, running the team become more difficult. I found it hard to recruit players each passing season. Getting 11-14 players every Sunday became nigh-on impossible. It seemed people were more interested in watching rather than playing. During the final throes of my Sunday League experience I began to take an interest in the game of futsal. Like five-a-side football, but with a slightly smaller weighed ball. This is a game extensively played in South America and some European countries such as Spain.
    Since I didn’t have enough players for an 11-a-side Sunday league team I decided to enter a team into a local futsal league. Recruiting players was far easier as many Eastern European, Spanish, Portuguese and Brazilian players were interested. I also managed to persuade some members of my former Sunday League team to join.
    The game of futsal proved a revelation. During the course of the season the improvement in the technical skills of the players was quite astonishing, even the former Sunday league players! More improvement in one season than I had seen from players playing 11-a-side for 10 seasons.
    This could be down to the fact that players see more of the ball, are forced to play in confined spaces and the weighted ball encourages short accurate passing rather than ‘hoofs’ up field. The skill of the non-English players also rubbed off on the former Sunday league players who started to have more confidence even performing step-overs and elasticos!
    This got me thinking about applying futsal to help young players improve their game, especially from a young age. So I began to search for a suitable venue which proved quite difficult as most indoor venues cater for all sports other than football, mainly badminton.
    Finally I found a suitable venue. However, having advertised for the past 4 months I’ve had no interest from young 8-11 year old players.
    For anyone that’s interested training will take place every Thursday 7-8pm in the Sports Hall, Barking & Dagenham College, Dagenham Road, Romford RM7 0XU.
    Tel. 07790705477

  • Diane Goforth says:


    My name is Diane. I am a soccer fanatic here in London.

    I am guessing you guys have heard of or seen Ronaldo’s new game

    I was just writing around because my mates and I are one of the teams for London and we are trying to get other local groups to finish getting their teams together.

    I didn’t see any coverage on your site yet so thought maybe you could talk about it!


    Diane Goforth
    red.soccergirl on Facebook

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