Ronaldo (the fat one) has played it, so have Ronaldinho, Juninho, and Zico, and even the iconic Pele had a dabble once upon a time. They’ve all kicked the ball, nut-megged a defender and probably even done a step-over or two. It’s not football though, not quite anyways. Futsal is the name of the game and now, finally, Denmark is in the mix as well following the announcement that it will contest its first ever game next month.
The origins of futsal, or fútbol de salon (hall football) in Spanish, can be traced back to the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo in 1930 – the same year and location as the first ever World Cup – when Juan Carlos Ceriani created a five-a-side version of football dedicated to the YMCA youth organisations in the city. The game, played on handball-sized courts, without the use of sidewalls, quickly spread to Brazil where it has flourished and helped develop some of the greatest footballers in history.
Perhaps it is fitting therefore that Denmark’s first national coach, Aroldo Strack, is of Brazilian heritage. He is ecstatic to be a part of Danish sporting history.
“It is fantastic that I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to a new Danish national team,” Strack told The Copenhagen Post. “It’s an exciting challenge that I look forward to getting to grips with. It’s wonderful to be a part of making Danish sporting history.”
The new Danish team won’t have a lot of time to practice together, and it will certainly be a baptism of fire as they take on Germany in Lübeck in their first game on April 21, before their first ever competitive game away in England in May.
Strack has already picked his initial team and there are some notable faces people may remember. Clement Cliford, who played for FC Copenhagen back in the late 1990s before injuries prematurely ended his professional career, made the team, as did Rasmus Petersen.
Petersen, who is the son of legendary Norwegian coach Egil ‘Drillo’ Olsen, said that it was great news, but it was perhaps a little late in coming.
“Honestly, if I have to be a bit critical, I think the DBU has waited a bit too long in setting up a team,” Petersen told sporten.dk. “The only two countries that did not participate in the qualification for the last European Championships were Denmark and San Marino. I suppose that statistic speaks for itself really.”
Futsal is a very technical game: the lack of space forces players to keep the ball on the ground mostly, and favour short quick passes and constant movement. The smaller, heavier ball prevents it from bouncing too much and makes it easier to control in the tight environment where players are made to think and act quickly.
Legendary Brazilian 1970 World Cup winner Rivelino has said that playing futsal helped hone his technique and close proximity play. “When you come to play normal football it’s easier if you’ve come from a futsal background,” he once remarked.
Since falling under the FIFA umbrella in 1989, there have been six world cups, of which Brazil have won four and Spain two. The next world cup will be in Thailand in November this year, but Denmark will be unable to qualify for a major competition until the 2014 European Championships.
Futsal has been growing in popularity throughout the world; it’s especially appealing in urban areas where the interest in football is high, but where space and resources are limited. Japan, for example, has over 300,000 registered futsal players.
On an amateur level in Denmark the sport is on the rise as well. The futsal season here stretches from late November to early March – a period during which the traditional football season in Denmark finds itself deep in its winter hibernation.
Ronaldo (still the fat one) perhaps put it most excellently when he said: “Futsal will always be my first love.”
Factfile | Football vs futsal
|Ball size:||5||3 or 4 with reduced bounce|
|Goal Size:||Large||Similiar to handball|
|Side-line restart:||Throw in||Kick in|
|Refs:||One ref, two assistants||One ref, one assistant|
|Duration:||90 mins||48 mins|
|Time-outs:||None||One per team per half|
|Goal kicks:||Yes||No, goalie throws it|
|Restarts:||No time limit||Four-second rule|
|Fouls:||Unlimited fouling||Five-foul limit|
|Sin bins:||None||Two-minute sin-bin|