Thursday, 14 March 2013

From Futsal to Small Sided Football

Why It's the Way Forward
by Victor Satei

Futsal continues to be credited for providing the foundation of technical skills to many of the most famous footballers. It is no surprise that football powerhouses Brazil and Spain who continue to dominate football on a world level also dominate in the game of futsal. Futsal, modifies the 11 a-side game into a 5 a-side version which takes place on a flat gym surface with a smaller, heavier ball, that doesn't bounce as much. The game favours players that possess greater technical skill as they are forced to make rapid decisions under immediate pressure while playing in a significantly smaller area. If you haven't been formally introduced to the game, here's a clip:
To begin producing highly technical players, futsal and the use of small sided games in youth football can be the answer. Small sided games are simply a variation of futsal used for the technical enhancement of players. As players advance onto the bigger field, it will feel to them as if they have more time and space when playing. This is what helps some of the worlds best players make the game look so easy, the technical base that they have built as young players allows them to react to situations almost as if they were in slow motion. With futsal and small sided play being implemented into the development plan of your youth structure you can guarantee the following:

  • Young players will be involved in small sided games.
  • Games will take place on smaller pitches with the use of smaller goals.
  • The ball will remain on the ground.
  • Players will have more opportunity to make decisions and have more touches of the ball.
  • Players will become more creative and stronger technically. The game of futsal forces players to deal with high pressure situations in tight spaces, this requires them to be quicker mentally and physically.

When looking at futsal as a method of teaching, there's no better way. It's simply a small sided game that we can then modify to teach whatever we like. The game takes all of the skills used in the full size match and forces players to try and use them in a condenseformat. It requires players to pass and move, dribble out of trouble, attack and defend as a team, use creativity and be clever. The game doesn't have to be played on a gym floor either, it can be played on turf, on grass, in the sand or on the street. Coaches can modify the game as they wish in order to teach different concepts, here you can find 50 of my own training games that I use when working with players.

Ronaldo, in his futsal days
"At 12, I joined an indoor 'Futebol De Salao' league to play Futsal. Futsal is a game played on a hard surface with a small ball made to roll, not bounce. Your footwork had to be good to move in and out of traffic, since the pitch was so small, about the size of a basketball court. I loved the challenge of playing in such tight spaces."- the famous Brazilian, Ronaldo

There are those that will argue that futsal or the small sided game does not relate enough to the 'big' game. I disagree totally. If there is a reason why players (especially in our country, Canada) are unable to compete at the top level, it is usually because they're technically deficient.  Players are simply incapable of executing the necessary skills that allow them to compete at the highest level. Everything from their first touch, to their game sense, to their speed of play has to improve, and futsal (or the small sided game) allows this to happen.

"As a kid, you need to touch the ball as much as you can. You should always be with the ball. You should have a feeling that wherever the ball is, you can do anything with it. No matter where it is, where it is on your body, how it's spinning, how it's coming at you, the speed it's coming at you, anything. You can learn the tactical side of the game later. It's amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn't matter when you're 12 years old. We're going to have big, strong, fast players. We're Americans, we're athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it's just useless."- Landon Donovan, US National Team

After-all, teams at the highest level aren't crowned champions because of their physical size, strength or speed. It's the teams with the most technically proficient players, the ones with the players who possess extraordinary skill. Teams with players who have defenders that don't panic under pressure, midfielders who can read the game and strikers who aren't afraid to take defenders on 1v1. It's the teams with players who can work a bit of magic in those tight spaces, the ones who can play a pass with the inside and outside of both feet or those that can combine together within a split second. We have to ask ourselves, is there a reason that the two countries who continue to dominate world football and produce a number of top class players are also the dominating force in futsal? Or is this just sheer coincidence?