Futsal 101

Football or Soccer to those in North America has always been the world’s most popular sport, not only is it the perfect team game but its fast and action packed nature mean it is great to be involved whether you’re playing or just spectating.  However, even with all the sport’s benefits there are some flaws in the game that make it unplayable at times. For instance, poor weather can make the game virtually unplayable in most parts of the world at certain times of year with rain, snow and cold weather in general sometimes making outdoor pitches unsafe to play on. There also may be situations when you can’t gather enough players to start a tem or just don’t have the space or time for a full sized game. These are all problems that have led to many variations of the sport being thought up over the years with arguably the most popular variation these being futsal. Futsal manages to pack in all the advantages of the action packed full sized game but in conditions that benefit all year round player and even adding to it in ways as well and here we will take you through everything you need to know about the game.

What is Futsal?

Futsal is a variation of soccer (used from now on for ease) that is played on a field that’s small enough that anyone can play indoors. A smaller ball than normal is used to aid skill and quick touches with each team only containing five players per side and games limited to 20 minutes a half. The name Futsal was derived from the Spanish phrases “futbol sala” or “futbol de salon”, which literally translates to “room football”. The game was invented in 1930 in Uruguay by Juan Carlos Ceriani Gravier and created as a means to have a version of the game that’s playable in YMCAs, youth clubs and community centers. Originally played in basketball courts, the first rulebook was published in 1933 and quickly became popular throughout Latin America with this popularity soon spreading throughout the world.

A uniform set of rules was published in 1956 in the form of “Book of Rules of Futsal”, which was written by Brazilian Luiz de Oliviera. His set of rules we’re then adopted as the standard for international play which are explored in more detail below.

futsal soccer player

FIFUSA was considered the first governing body of futsal and was established in 1971. It has 32 original members and was responsible for creating the first world championships for the sport. On the other side of the fence, FIFA, which was also looking for its official indoor version of football, summoned the leaders of FIFUSA to discuss plans for taking the game forward. No unification was established at first, which meant futsal was considered a sport that was independent from football’s world governing body this is still an issue that hasn’t been completely resolved and there are currently two recognized governing bodies for futsal, FIFA and the Asociation Mundial de Futbol de Salon (AMF), a successor of FIFUSA.

Why is Futsal So Popular?

Just about everyone who takes up the game loves futsal, especially given the fact that the game can be played by anyone, anywhere, anytime regardless of weather conditions. It also provides soccer players a means to stay in game shape all year round whilst at the same time, the specific rules and dynamics of the game develop important aspects of player’s games that can then be taken back in to other variations of the sport.

Futsal also appeals to those who may be new to the sport as whole as well. The fast tempo of the game and its ‘non-stop’ relentless nature means it is an excellent work out for anyone looking to get an alternative form of exercise into their weekly work out plan. Being a team sport Futsal is also a great opportunity to play with friends or even to make new ones if you have recently moved to a new state or city, and if you’re looking for more information on where to play indoor soccer in your area check out our Where to Play page.

Which Famous Players Have Played Futsal?

If we were to name every famous professional soccer player who has played Futsal at some point in their life, either both their career when they were developing their skills or techniques as youngsters or after their career has ended to keep in touch with the game the list really would be endless. Being particularly popular in Latin America the game has been played by some of the most skilful soccer players of the modern game, some of the biggest names include Neymar, David Luiz as well as two of the best soccer players ever Messi and Ronaldo!

Obviously the success of these players’ footballing careers cannot be attributed entirely to Futsal but the fundamentals that it teaches about the game and emphasis it places on control and developing technique definitely helped them to progress as players in important times of their lives. Particularly in the case of Messi it is quite easy to see how the close control and dribbling that Futsal relies so heavily on may have been bred by his days playing Futsal at his home in Argentina even before he arrived to the greatest academy in the world at La Masia and learnt his trade at Barcelona.

Futsal Rules

Since there are 2 governing bodies of futsal, they both recognize their own separate set of rules. This may be slightly confusing for new followers of the game however in general there are some rules Futsal follows no matter where you play:

Five-a-side – Each team has 5 players on the field at any given time, 1 being a goalkeeper and the 4 being outfielders. Including the substitutes, a futsal team roster is composed of up to 12 players.

Equipment – The ball used for futsal is significantly different from the usual ball used in football. A size 4 ball with less bounce is used for this game and standard safety equipment such as shin guards are required with goalkeepers allowed to use elbow pads. Rubber-soled shoes are also used with many manufactures producing shoes specifically designed for the demands of Futsal.

Field and Goals – The surface used for the field should be flat, smooth and non-abrasive. The measurement of the field recognized for international competitions is 38-42m long and 20-25m wide. The goal is measured at 3 meters wide and 2 meters high, and is located at opposite ends of the field with a square goal being used in comparison to rectangular goals in traditional 5-a-side.

Substitutions – Both teams are allowed to make unlimited substitutions. Substitutions can be made at any given time during the game, as long as it is only done at the specially demarcated substitution zones. A sent-off player can be replaced after 2 minutes or if the opposing team scores a goal.

Time – Each match is played with 20-minute halves. The time is stopped at every dead ball. Should the score remain tied at regulation, 2 extra-time periods of 5 minutes each are played. If the score remains tied after extra time, the game is decided via penalty kick shootout.

Offside – There is no offside rule in futsal, meaning players can get closer to the goal than usual and all players are allowed to enter the penalty area.

Fouls – A foul can be called on a player when excessive contact is made. A foul can also be called when a player holds, touches or spits at an opponent. Only 6 fouls can be accumulated by a team in a half. Going beyond this limit will award the opposing team a penalty kick. Futsal also contains a five foul limit with no wall being allowed for direct free kicks after a fifth foul is awarded against one team.

Misconduct – Just like in football, yellow and red cards can be given for any form of unsportsmanlike conduct. A yellow card is given as a cautionary measure, while anyone who receives a red card gets automatically sent off from the match.

Which Country is the Best at Futsal?

For all information here we are using information from FIFA as opposed to AMF which also still host their own international championship. Since FIFA’s involvement with Futsal most countries now have their own fully-fledged futsal associations and as the same in football FIFA runs the Futsal World Cup every four years. The first World Cup was held in 1989 and to date there has been 7 tournaments with the next one to be held in Columbia later this year.

As with the full-sized game, Brazil have dominated the sport so far in its young history, winning 5 of the 7 World Cups with Spain taking the other two titles.  So far there is yet to be a final that doesn’t involve either of the two Futsal super powers and the history of the game points to the fact the two countries produce the most technically gifted players with the best ability to create chances and score goals in small spaces.

Ahead of the 2016 World Cup Spain are currently ranked as the best team in the world and will look to close the gap to 2 titles between themselves and Brazil when this year’s tournament kicks off in September. Somewhat surprisingly for fans of football is that Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are all ranked within the Top 10 of Futsal’s world rankings. The United States are currently ranked 41st with England in 59th.

international futsal rules

Getting the Most out of Futsal

Given the size of the field, the number of players in the game, and the kind of ball and surface used, there are some intricacies within the game that help players develop specific skills that can help them improve not only Futsal but other agility based sports as well. Because there are fewer players and the field is smaller more precision is required in both offense and defence. Offensively, there’s an emphasis on control of the ball as the space available for movement is limited and both pass and dribbles need to be perfect in order to be effective. Aside from mastering pinpoint passing, players should know how to handle the ball in tight spaces and this is where practice is massively beneficial. Use of your body weight and strength is also important to ensure you keep control and stop the opposition from tackling and winning the ball back. As in regulation soccer, defence is as equally important as offence. Aside from understanding defensive fundamentals such as space and timing of a tackle, defenders should also be in good physical condition to maintain defensive pressure and to force opposition players in to errors either by tackling or jostling for possession.

Individual talent is important to succeed in futsal, may be even more so than in full sized outdoor games. This is because the lack of skill in either offense or defence can be amplified by the small space in which this game is played, meaning poor control or passes are even more costly. This obviously shouldn’t deter any new players from taking the game up to begin with as practice is the only way to improve and it is just as important that the team perform as one coherent unit for better results. A coordinated defensive and offensive strategy can be used to overwhelm opponents and win matches and specific team strategies work best against specific opponent so being prepared as a team is definitely a must.

Given the popularity of the sport futsal internationally and its status as a legitimate sport, it is certainly worth learning more about in order to develop your game. Aside from being a great way to play the soccer all year round Futsal can help you develop skills that will make you become a more well-rounded soccer player.