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South Africa Futsal Course at Stellenbosch
Thursday, 27 November 2008 23:34
Futsalwire A Lesson In Futsal South Africa -  Futsal Course at Stellenbosch University's Sport Performance Institute (SUSPI).


After attending the recent Ajax Coaching Clinic, I was delighted to receive an invitation from one of the participants to attend his upcoming coaching course.

Buoyed initially simply by having a new challenge to get my teeth into, I was intrigued by the email that dropped into my inbox offering me the opportunity to attend a Futsal Course at Stellenbosch University's Sport Performance Institute (SUSPI).

I had spent the majority of the month of October watching the FIFA Futsal World Cup, held this year in Rio De Janeiro, that Supersport screened all day, every day for three weeks, so I read on excitedly.

'What do you know about Futsal?', the email began. 'Come find out more about this exciting version of soccer and become a Futsal coach!' Needless to say I signed up on the spot.

I was honestly unsure as what to expect from the course - just what did I know about Futsal?

Well, for starters I knew that Brazil had just been crowned FIFA Futsal World Champions for the fourth time in just six World Cups with a little help from the world's best Futsal player, Alessandro Rosa Vieira, better known as Falcão. I knew that Futsal was played between two teams of five players and that it was played on a hard surface, mostly indoor but on any suitable outdoor surface as well - hence the name Futsal which is derived from the Portuguese futebol de salão and the Spanish fútbol sala/de salón, which can be translated as 'indoor football'; and unlike the small-sided football games that I have played, there are no rebound boards surrounding the playing area.

But, apart from that - the game of Futsal had so far made little impact on my life. Until now.

The course is run by Jose Cabral, a former Brazilian Futsal player, who was appointed by Stellenbosch University's Sport Bureau early last year to take the reins of Maties junior football as well as the assistant coach's role of the Maties first side; and the inspirational coach is working hard to transform the game of soccer in South Africa as we know it.

Unlike the Ajax clinic where there were over 70 people, disappointingly just 20 coaches were in attendance, but this made for a very intimate introductory course held over two days. The focus, as the email explained was on 'fun and learning life skills through Futsal' - and it certainly delivered on both accounts.

We began with brief introductions before delving into the murky waters of the state of South African soccer. Anyone who follows the local game knows at least a few of the multitudinous problems that plague our beloved sport - from the state of the national team - a nation of 48 million people sitting an embarrassing 80th in the official FIFA world rankings, to a lack of resources and funds, and more significantly, the absence of a working structure at grassroots level that functions both locally and nationally.

The course, as we were to learn, offers a solution to these problems. Very simply it strives to develop Futsal coaches to take the game to the nation. By installing these coaches with the transferable life skills necessary to develop well-rounded human beings and outstanding footballers, SUSPI hopes to develop a new generation of player.

Prior to the course I had been unaware that Futsal even existed in South Africa, but subsequent investigations have shown me that participation and awareness of the game is apparently growing.

South African Futsal National team manager Solly Matlala explained to me that South Africans have been playing a version of the sport more commonly known as indoor soccer since the early 1990s with the South African Indoor Football Association (SAIFA) formed in 2001 to develop Futsal.

The South African Futsal National Team, now under the auspices of SAFA Futsal has participated in four International Tournaments and travelled to Libya for the African qualifiers for the World Futsal Championship in March, although they failed to make the tournament proper.

As a side note African football's controlling body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) introduced the African Futsal Championship in Egypt in 1996 and it has been played every four years with the Egyptians crowned champions on all three occasions.

According to recent SAFA figures, out of the 52 regions, Futsal is currently played in 20 with a plan reportedly in place to reach the other 32 in the coming years but, as a resident of the Western Cape and a soccer player heavily involved since the early nineties, I personally have had no experience of Futsal in South Africa.

As a kid the only organised form of soccer available to me was 11-a-side and this bizarre situation remains the same today under a SAFA directive that develops human bait balls. If you've ever been to a junior game you would recognise the familiar form of a mass of eager youngsters all attempting to get a kick of the ball, at the same time, on a field designed for adults, more often than not with a ball that is too big for them, with the goalkeepers in goals they have absolutely no chance of covering. The only allowance made is that corners are taken from the big box line and not the corner flag.

Compare that approach to the countries that make up the top ten of FIFA's official world rankings where as Jose explained, from a very early age kids play 5-a-side Futsal. With just four team-mates to interact with there is nowhere to hide; the pitch is too small to bunch and in order to be able to play effectively you have to find space and develop the skill necessary to play in that space. Players learn to attack and defend as positions interchange constantly and with no time to think, a player's instinct becomes a valuable aid. An accumulated foul count favours skillful and creative play above physical contact as all fouls are counted with the fifth foul in any one half from any member of the team resulting in an unopposed ten metre penalty.

In these countries, Futsal is played in every school and it forms part of the sports curriculum. The first time these aspiring footballers get a sniff of grass is at the age of 11 when they graduate to the game we all know and love.

If you are still not convinced another resounding argument to introduce Futsal to South Africa is that unlike 11-a-side football that requires a large grass field, Futsal can be played on a netball or tennis court or any spare patch of land that could be used as a makeshift pitch. Certainly developing and maintaining Futsal grounds would cost a fraction of the amount it would take to build and manage grass fields.

We needed no further persuading and listened attentively as Jose talked candidly about all aspects of this fascinating format - from Futsal's humble beginnings in Brazil to its global appeal today. Jose discussed his experiences as a Futsal player and explained the tactical and technical aspects that go into training and playing Futsal before we were able to get on the pitch ourselves.

Putting into practice all that we had learnt, in the afternoon of the final day, was undoubtably for me, the highlight of the course.

It all made perfect sense: develop Futsal and you develop footballers.

Trevor Kramer

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