Futsal has played a huge role in the development of some of the most famous football players on the planet. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar are three of the biggest names in game, who all honed their skills playing the small-sided game.
Even in Australia, one of our top talents – Celtic and Socceroo’s Tom Rogic – was an avid player throughout his youth. The country is currently without a national team for men or women, and those within the game argue that without a national agenda for futsal, Australia may fail to develop players of this calibre going forward.
According to former Futsalroo and South Melbourne Legend Fernando de Moraes, one of the biggest benefits to player development is the number of touches on the ball they receive, and this is an essential part of developing a complete and technically talented footballer.
“I’d say futsal isn’t important. It’s essential. It has to be a part of their development. The technique developed from playing futsal, you won’t get that in outdoor football. The technical skills, the small touches of the ball, the quick thinking. In the full-sided game, you don’t get enough of that sometimes,” he said.
Anthony Grima, head of commercial and futsal at Football Victoria, is at the heart of the development of the game within Australia. He believes that Australia needs a national road map for futsal to get the best out of the game.
“A roadmap for Futsal is crucial for the future success of the sport in this country. It would lay the foundations for the sport nationally and provide an aligned Futsal framework for all states and territories to follow,” he said.
“Priorities such as governance, grassroots and pathway programs, player, coach and referee development, Futsal national teams, a national Futsal League and more.”
De Moraes believes without a path for young players to compete against the best opposition, the game is losing out on developing players. Football Australia’s former iteration of a national futsal league, the F-League, is now defunct.
“It all starts from if you don’t have a professional or national league, even a semi-pro league. If you have a pathway for the kids who want to join futsal in competitions around the country, these amazing kids can succeed. But obviously, there is no pathway for them. They get lost,” he said.
De Moraes is no stranger to international futsal, having been capped 29 times by his country. In the past futsal has operated on an ad-hoc basis, with national teams suffering from a lack of support and organisation. National teams were sometimes organized as representative sides without recognition from the professional bodies in Australia, especially for women.
“It was always a get-together one or two months before the competition, we’d train together maybe two times, and then we’d go overseas to play the tournament. To have a program, so you can organise sooner, get yourself ahead, and develop players would be brilliant,” de Moraes said.
According to Grima, the sport has suffered without a centralised and focused vision, however, success can be created by listening to the stakeholders of the game.
“There has been a lack of certainty over what role governing bodies should play in Futsal and what leadership they should provide,” he said.
“After the extensive consultation we did here in Victoria in 2019 with the game’s stakeholders – and getting a deeper understanding of best practice principles – it is clear that the sport must be aligned.”
Grima explains that while the game faces issues, Football Australia, and the state federations, have signalled improvements in the games pathways, while calling for a national agenda for the sport.
“I am delighted that Football Australia included futsal in Principle IV of the recently released XI Principles – for the future of Australian football. They call for the establishment of a national agenda for futsal and beach soccer and to investigate the creation of new products to grow the game. This is fantastic to see,” he said.
“Here in Victoria, like Queensland as well, we recently announced our futsal strategies and have stepped up our dedication to unite the sport and invest in the resources needed to govern Futsal in our respective states. Other states including NSW and ACT have long been dedicated to Futsal.”
The Futsalroos are currently inactive. Grima thinks there is a huge opportunity to launch a women’s national team under Football Australia.
“The FIFA Futsal World Cup is being held this year in Lithuania, it would have been great to see the Futsalroos participating,” he said.
“I believe there is a huge opportunity ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to introduce a national women’s team for Futsal as well. What a great legacy hosting the World Cup would bring here for Futsal as well.”
De Moraes believes that with the support of the state federations, futsal could become a huge part in developing players for the national team.
“Futsal is a great sport to develop players in this country. The amount of talent that gets lost and doesn’t end up playing because of a lack of opportunity is a missed opportunity. To make futsal a part of football, with the federation’s support, would be great to see.” he said.