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Articles: Futsal


Futsal is one of the many sports that has evolved from the game of association football. It is very similar to five-a-side football and is the most widely played indoor version of the game. Although it is primarily an indoor sport, Futsal is sometimes played outside, especially at recreational level in South America.

Just like other forms of football, Futsal follows the principle that players must attempt to score more goals than the opposing team by using any part of their body apart from the hands or arms. A team consists of five players, one of which must play as a goalkeeper and unlimited substitutions can be made. The game is played on a hard court marked by lines and unlike some codes of indoor football, the perimeter walls may not be used.

The origins of the sport can be traced back to the 1930s when it was introduced to the YMCAs of Uruguay by a school professor. Once the format had been established, it was soon exported to other South American countries. The first official competition was the Campeonato Sul-Americano de Futebol de Salão in 1964 which was held in Ascuncion and won by host nation Paraguay.

The name ‘Futsal’ is derived from the Portuguese phrase ‘Futebol de salão’ or ‘Indoor soccer’. In Brazil, it is one of the largest participation sports and attracts more players than regular football - however, it cannot compete with football as a spectator sport.

Some of the greatest football players in history started out as Futsal players including Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. With a new league being launched in the USA – the growth of future of Futsal looks very healthy.

A Futsal match

A Futsal match is played between two teams of five players with up to seven players (nine for FIFA events) allowed on the substitutes bench. During the game, unlimited substitutions can be made at any time during play but no more than five players may be on the pitch at once. Only the player assigned as goalkeeper may touch the ball with their hand during play.

The four outfield players must try to move the ball into a goal at the opposite end of the playing area which is defended by the other team’s goalkeeper. The team that scores the most goal wins the match.

The game is played with a size 4 ball on a hard indoor pitch that is marked out by lines. The playing area must be a minimum of 25x16m up to a maximum of 42x25m in size. For international matches the size restrictions are slightly different with a minimum area of 38x20m up to a maximum area of 42x25m required.

The goals are three metres wide by two metres high and positioned centrally at each end of the pitch. In front of each goal is a penalty area that is marked by drawing two quarter-circles six metres from each goal post and then joining them with a straight line. There are two penalty spots; one at 6m and one at 10 m.

The ball is smaller and lighter than a regular football and it is also designed to bounce less. This makes it easier to control on the hard surface and also adds to the fluidity of the game.

Players wear socks, shorts and shirts that are similar to association football kits. Shoes can be made from various materials but have flat rubber soles. Shin guards are also worn to protect from injury.

How a Futsal match begins

A pre-match coin toss is held by the referee to decide who kicks off in the first period of play. The team that does not kick-off will automatically be chosen to start the second half of play. The teams begin in opposite halves of the pitch and the team that is not kicking off must remain outside of the centre circle until the ball had been kicked.

The match is officiated a referee, who has the final decision on all judgements. They are assisted by a second referee who will often patrol goal lines and inform the referee of any infringements that may have been missed. A third pitch-side referee monitors substitutions and keeps a record of fouls while a time keeper controls the game length and records any stoppages.

The main rules of the game

A Futsal match is played over two 20 minute halves either side of a 15 minute break. During the game it is the objective of both teams to score more goals than their opponents. To do this, players will compete for possession of the ball and use a mixture of attacking and defensive play to control the game and create scoring opportunities.

Futsal is a contact sport and possession can be won by tackling an opponent or intercepting the ball. Possession can also be won via free-kicks for foul play, or kick-ins if the ball goes out of play. If six fouls are committed in the area 10 metres or more beyond a team’s own goal line, a penalty is awarded to the other team. This penalty is taken from the 10 metre spot. Any foul committed in the six metre penalty area results in a penalty for the opposition being taken from the six metre spot.

For a goal to be scored, the whole of the ball must cross the goal line. The players can score from anywhere on the pitch and there is no offside rule.

Futsal games can end in a drawn, but when a winner must be decided, there are three methods used to determine a victor. In two legged games, the team who scores the most away goals is handed the advantage. If the away goals are equal, or in drawn games where only one leg is being played, two five minute periods of extra time are played. If the teams still cannot be separated after the game is extended, a best-of-five penalty shoot-out is held. After five penalties have been taken the format resorts to sudden-death.

Yellow and red cards are issued for fouls and infringements and the rules follow the same procedure as association football. A yellow card is issued for foul play and any player that is shown a second yellow card is then shown a red and must leave the playing area without being replaced. A player can also be dismissed for a being shown a straight red card for a serious or dangerous act of foul play.

All free-kicks, including goal kicks and throw-ins, must be taken within four seconds or an indirect kick will be awarded to the opposition. Once the goal keeper releases the ball, they can only touch it again if it goes out of play or is touched by the opposition first.

Strategy and tactics when playing Futsal

Futsal is a fast and skilful version of indoor football that shares common features with other indoor sports including basketball and handball. The ball is smaller than a regular football and does not bounce excessively thus avoiding any unwanted pauses in play.

Strategy is all important in Futsal and teams may adopt different strategies and formations for different phases of play. The fast attacking nature of the game requires quick adjustments from attacking to defensive positions and the ability to control and pass the ball in tight spaces.

Many Futsal teams will employ a tactic of rotating and recycling the ball around the pitch while waiting for the opposition to lose concentration and leave space for an attacking run. The incisive move can result in just enough time and space for a clear shot on goal.

Competing at Futsal

Futsal is played to a high level all over the world and there are many competitions for both club and international teams. In many South American countries, young players are more likely to play Futsal than association football although many use the indoor game as a platform to break into the traditional code. The game can be played indoors or outdoors on basketball and handball courts.

The accessible nature of the sport makes it very attractive to players of all ages and it is possible to become a professional through the modern league structure in many countries. The USA has become the latest country to launch such a professional Futsal league.

The original governing body was formed in Brazil in 1971 and was reformed in 2002 to become the Asociación Mundial de Fútbol de Salón (AMF), which is now based in Paraguay. FIFA took notice of the sport in the 1980s and helped to establish its presence in Europe. Due to many failed attempts to unify governance of the sport, Futsal now has two governing bodies.

Thanks to the rather confusing dual governance set-up of the sport, there are many Futsal competitions including two quadrennial World Competitions and several continental and club tournaments under the two different affiliations.

Betting on Futsal

With so many Futsal leagues and cup competitions there are more ways than ever to bet on this dynamic and fast-growing indoor sport. Most bookmakers still offer very basic market options but as punter interest in the sport continues to grow, the number of markets looks set to increase.

The outright winner (1X2) market is the most common bet closely followed by the Asian Handicap, where one team is given points advantage; and the Over/Under (6.5) markets, where odds are given for correctly predicting if the total amount of goals is higher or lower than a set benchmark. As with most football codes, betting companies count the result after regulation play - in the case of Futsal, that is 40 minutes.