In the last few months, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany; futsal is just as good as football… Controversial, I hear you say, but let me explain, don’t click that X button just yet!

First, some background on my futsal journey. While at university, I played on and off. At Bath, futsal was something that we did on the side, and the emphasis was still always on 11-a-side. I enjoyed it, but I never saw it as anything but an add-on to my football, as well as a chance to work on my technical ability off the muddy pitch.

Then, when I headed over to Spain for my year abroad, I wanted to give it a go there. Spain is big on futsal, with their women’s side being one of the best in the world, beating Portugal 4-0 in the final of the Euros this year. Sadly, under the rules of the RFEF (the Spanish FA) a player is not allowed to play for both a futsal and football team! Crazy, right?! So, I went with what I knew, choosing to play 11-a-side football, rather than taking the plunge into the futsal world.

After graduating, I had a look around for a women’s futsal team nearby, but for a while, had zero luck. It seemed as if futsal fever hadn’t spread as much as I would have hoped, with almost all of the women’s teams down south being based in London. But then, my luck changed… I saw a Facebook post from Reading Royals Futsal Club, who were trying to get a women’s side together. I turned up to some of the training sessions and loved it! It was great to get to know some other girls from local football teams, as well as get back to playing futsal in a no-pressure environment. We’ve now entered into a local futsal league, and I couldn’t be more excited to get started!

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t sure of the difference between football and futsal, I’ll break it down…

There are a lot of other little rules, but here are the main differences that you need to know about:

  1. Futsal is played on a smaller hard court pitch which is normally inside. A nice change from the wind and rain of British football!
  2. The number of players is reduced from 11-a-side to 5-a-side.
  3. Games are 20 minutes each way, with the clock stopping at every dead ball.
  4. The futsal ball is a size smaller than a football, and has 30 per cent less bounce.
  5. Each team gets to use one timeout each period, which last one minute.
  6. Instead of the normal throw-in in regular football, futsal has a kick-in.

If you want a more in-depth breakdown of all the rules, you can have a look at this video:

But anyway, why should you bother with futsal?

There’s quite a few reasons why futsal is great, and some big name players like Ronaldo and Messi back my claims up!

Firstly, and slightly unrelated to the technical side of the game, choosing to play futsal is a fantastic way to meet women from further afield and with different footballing backgrounds. Playing football for one team, or even at the moment being dual-signed for two, I feel like I’m in my own little bubble. You see other players as your opponents in matches, but don’t get a chance to actually meet them and have a chat. I think that this is a massive shame in a lot of ways! Playing futsal has been an eye-opener for me. In our club we have women from nearly all of the local leagues; from FA WNL to the lowest regional leagues. You might think that’s a bit odd, but futsal requires a different kind of skill and we all play together at the same level despite the different teams we play for on a Sunday. So, that’s one of the more personal reasons I like futsal; meeting like-minded women!

Heading back towards the technical side of the game and why you should bother, it’s a well known fact that futsal really amps up your close control, first touch and skills. You just have to watch a match online or head to your local club to see what I mean! In futsal, your touch can make or break your game. The compact pitch and quick nature of the game means that you constantly have to be on your toes and be able to control and pass in a couple of seconds. The smaller and heavier ball also lets you try out more skills which might not be possible on the football pitch. Also, according to study by Liverpool John Moores University in 2001, an individual playing futsal on average recieve the ball six times more often than they would do when playing 11-a-side football! Yes, six times! So, having this much more time on the ball means that you can practice all those important techniques, which is especially beneficial for the younger generation of players!

The counter-attack is also something which I am slowly but surely perfecting thanks to futsal. I think in my years as a footballer, I’ve never been much of a counter-attacking player, and neither have the teams that I’ve played for. Futsal can be very back and forth, with teams either defending a counter-attack or launching one. This kind of play really requires you to be quick thinking and also develops both attacking and defending confidence in younger players. Despite having played in defence when I was younger, I kind of lost my awareness once I moved further up the field, but I’ve found that starting to play futsal regularly is helping me when I play in more defensive roles, as well as just more general defensive awareness.

Finally, fitness! Having come back into football after a prolongued summer break due to exams, I found that fitness was a big issue in 11-a-side. I am slowly rebuilding my stamina by training and playing, but I’ve also found futsal extremely helpful in the battle to get back to full fitness. Futsal is great because you spend the whole game involved. Whether you’re playing as a pivot (kind of like a striker), winger, more defensively or even as a keeper, you’re likely to be constantly on the move during the game. This can leave you red faced and sweaty as hell when you start playing, but give it a few sessions and you’ll be sprinting up and down the pitch with ease! Or at least, without feeling like you’re about to have a heart attack!

If that doesn’t convince you, both Messi and Ronaldo grew up playing futsal, and look where it got them! There’s no harm in giving it a go, and I’m sure you’ll find that you develop in ways that you don’t expect!

During my childhood in Portugal, all we played was Futsal. The small playing area helped me improve my close control, and whenever I played Futsal I felt free. If it wasn’t for Futsal, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.

Cristiano Ronaldo
The FA National Futsal Series kicked off last weekend

Have I convinced you? Well, here’s what the women’s futsal landscape looks like in the UK!

As I mentioned, it took me a while to find a club that was near enough for me to make it to training. When I was on the search I spoke to Han (@doublenutmegs) who plays for Derby Futsal in the FA National Futsal Series. She explained that even in the NFS, there aren’t that many women’s teams (5 in the northern league and 6 in the south), and that at regional level the ability is rather hit and miss. However, I was excited when she told me that in the FA Futsal Strategy which was recently released, a women’s national team is on the cards. Hopefully this will mean more investment in the sport as a whole, and more emphasis on trying to get women involved.

You never know, maybe you’ll see me in a Lionesses futsal shirt in the coming years… *fingers crossed!*

So, if you want to give futsal a go, have a look around for a club in your area that offers women’s futsal, or maybe even have a chat to an NFS team, as they may be keen to develop new talent. All I can say is that every team I have approached or asked questions have been really helpful , and everyone seems really dedicated to raising the profile of this awesome sport!

If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to drop me a DM at @lishapovs and I can point you in the right direction!