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Futsal grows across the globe in advance of Thailand World Cup
With the FIFA Futsal World Cup set to be staged in Thailand in November, a recent survey by the Development Committee of the world football governing body reveals that five-a-side game is growing across the globe.
FIFA recently found that out of 209 member associations, some 150 are now playing the sport with varying levels of organisation, an 18% increase on 2006, when a similar survey revealed that the sport was being played in 127 associations.
The most significant statistics were to be found in the African Football Confederation (CAF), where the number of associations where futsal is now played has jumped from 21 to 53%, just behind the 57% recorded in the North, Central America and Caribbean Confederation (CONCACAF) and the 64% in the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC).
The fact that African countries where futsal was virtually non-existent in 2006 – Zimbabwe being one example – have taken part in the qualifiers for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 is an indication of that growth. A total of 115 member associations participated in the qualification process for the upcoming final phase, 18 more than for Brazil 2008.
FIFA has played an important role in this growth, by putting together programs to help develop futsal, even in countries with a bigger football tradition. An example of this is Germany, an unquestioned football power, that just hosted a futsal coaches course.
Mongolia is a federations starting from scratch, where the foundations for playing the sport were laid at the end of the 1990s, but where a formal futsal structure was only created in 2008, with the support of FIFA.
Mongolian Football Association (FMF) Department of International Relations Head Maya Lhamdorj told FIFA.com how it all began, stating "in our case, the program became a priority because of the impact the climate has on the football season. Winter lasts for seven months here, with temperatures always below zero, and because of that football has always been a summer sport. Our goal, though, was to make it a sport that can be played all year round."
The FMF faced all sorts of problems, such as a lack of knowledge of the rules and a shortage of futsal balls and boots, though the greatest obstacle of all was the fact they had no indoor arena that conformed to international requirements or could protect players from the elements.
Lhamdorj added "fortunately, and thanks to FIFA Goal Projects 3 and 4, we were able to open a hall at our headquarters last November. It also has a modern heating system."
"The impact was almost instant," continued Lhamdorj, who sees Mongolia unsuccessful bid to qualify for Thailand 2012 as just the start of the process.
"The number of players has grown enormously, even among children, and we're now planning to set up competitions at all levels. We can also get more out of seminars now, like the one we had for coaches in January, and extend them to referees. The idea is to plan for the long term."
Another interesting statistic thrown up by the survey is that out of the 150 associations where futsal is played, 116 of them have a national men's championship in place at the very least. This represents a significant step forward for some countries, which have prepared the ground for the development of the game and can now be considered emerging futsal nations.
The survey also revealed some encouraging information on how member associations go about running the sport internally. While nearly 61% of federations have set up a futsal committee and/or department, around 57% also engage in futsal-related educational and promotional activities. In this respect, both schools and universities have potential roles to play in supporting member associations in their efforts to promote futsal and provide a structure for its development.
New Zealand is seen as presenting a model of good governance in futsall. As New Zealand Football (NZF)'s Futsal Development Manager Dave Payne explain "in late 2009 when NZF signalled the intent to put futsal under the governance of the national body, futsal was still very much 'underground'.
"To ensure we didn't clash, but complimented with football activity we aligned the pathways of both football and futsal. For all junior programmes delivered indoor, a futsal ball has been introduced.
"The next step was to engage schools. We are now active in primary and secondary schools and our next goal is getting football clubs involved in our futsal leagues", he added.
The growth of the game in New Zealand saw the expansion of the recent ASB Futsal National Junior Festival and Youth Championships
Held at Wellington's ASB Sports Centre at the beginning of July, the second edition of the competition saw 37 federation teams play over 100 games with the introduction of an Under 19 age group, highlighting the rapid growth of futsal within secondary schools, and innovations at the Under 10s and Under 12s levels.
Payne explained that the move to representative federation teams added a new dimension to the battle for Under 14, Under 16 and Under 19 titles, stating "the move to federation teams instead of clubs shows how far we've come in integrating futsal into the overall football landscape in just a couple of years.
"In the past, this weekend may have been seen as a rare opportunity to play the game but now with through the work of futsal development officers in each of our federations there are leagues to compete in, coaching programmes in place and the championship is part of a larger pathway. It's a chance to represent their region against the best from around the country and cap what they've been doing locally all year round.
"The fact that there are many football players from federation talent centres involved in a futsal championship shows the crossover benefit to both forms of the game."
Payne was also excited about new formats at the Under 10 and Under 12 levels where inter-federation matches were mixed with skill development activities to create a festival atmosphere.
He added "we've recognised that the main focus should still be on development at those ages so we've combined the matches with a variety of fun skill development activities in between. There's still the competitive element but we also celebrate successful team play and individual skill as part of the overall festival at the 10th and 12th grade level."
21st March 2012 - FIVE-A-SIDE FOOTBALL CENTRES OPEN IN NSW
19th March 2012 - THAILAND PREPARES FOR FUTSAL WORLD CUP KICK OFF
29th March 2010 - INDOOR GAME INTEGRATES WITH NEW ZEALAND FOOTBALL’S DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
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