Futsal is the way to go
Sometime in 2015 while I was in Zebilla in the Upper East Region of Ghana, I wandered around one morning and found myself at Zebilla Senior High School. I saw kids play a football match on the school field and, instead of spotting talent, I became sad immediately. Why? Simple – because kids aged between 7years and 10years were thrust onto a full-sized pitch to play football. I made a writeup the following day with the title above.
South America seems to be God’s chosen place for producing footballers with skills to kill. Apart from the inevitable divine bit, that continent has worked for it and continues to work for it. Sadly, we chose to turn a blind eye on their success formula, yet tend to sing their praises and idolise them each time they chalk successes.
There’s something called futsal, football’s younger sibling. It’s a game played on a hard-surfaced smaller field with smaller goals, using a heavier smaller ball, by fewer players usually in halls. It was first started in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1930 by football teacher Juan Carlos Ceriani. He thought that the game entailed a lot, which first needed to be learned especially at a younger age. The tradition would gain popularity and transcend the boundaries of Uruguay and become a continental tale.
The child footballer is not like the adult footballer. His physical, physiological and cognitive growth is still young and as such, his learning and training must be commensurate with the levels of the above perimeters. That is why FIFA has introduced age-limit tournaments to mark the progress of a player from bottom to top. The importance of this to our beautiful game cannot be underestimated.
In futsal, the child player learns the true art and science of playing the game. He learns the relationship between his body and the ball. He gets to appreciate different dynamics – what part of the foot and body to use on the ball to merit a certain outcome regarding passing, shooting and control. Plus, he develops the habit of thinking faster and employing skilful moves because of having to operate in reduced space. Within a short period of time his level of technique appreciates, marking an increase in his general ability.
So back to South America – all the players, past and present, we’ve come to love and adore started this way. From the mythical Pele to Vinicius Jnr., from Diego Maradona to Paulo Dybala, from Fernando Redondo to Diego Forlan and many others, we’ve been inspired by a certain brand of football borne from futsal. Perhaps more than anything else, the continent owes its dominance in FIFA Youth Championships to the marriage between futsal and their development programme.
Recent goings-on in the game indicate that others have also lighted their torches from the mighty blaze in South America. Quite inexplicably however, good old Africa is yet to be bothered. So if Africa’s slumber is that deep, what accounts for Ghana’s daze? For some time now, the local league has been in tatters for many reasons, one of which is the death or near death of colts football, and that’s where futsal comes in handy.
The problem with our game here is multifaceted. As part of the road to recovery we need a certain revolution. On improving the quality of our game, we must adopt futsal and push in the necessary funding it demands. The inevitable positive result may not be short-term, but will definitely impact later. Once we have done this, we will not be quick to sing others’ praises and idolise them but tell our own success story. I guess by then when I wander around Zebilla Senior High School again, I’ll see kids play on a futsal court and not a full-sized pitch.
Yours in the beautiful game