By Chuck Reherman
A sport started in South America is starting to sweep Oklahoma and the United States.
The sport of futsal, an indoor version of soccer, is growing and Oklahomans have a chance to be a part of it.
Yukon High School head girls soccer coach Steve Scott is a big proponent of the sport and has been named as the Southwest Regional Director.YHS assistant coach, Tony Willitts, has also been selected as the commission of the sport in Oklahoma.
Futsal in a game played indoors and is a variant of association football played on a hard court, smaller than a football (soccer) pitch, and mainly indoors. It can be considered a version of five-a-side football.
Futsal is played between two teams of five players each, one of whom is the goalkeeper. Unlimited substitutions are permitted. Unlike some other forms of indoor soccer, the game is played on a hard court surface delimited by lines; walls or boards are not used. Futsal is also played with a smaller, harder, low-bounce ball.
The surface, ball, and rules together favor ball control and passing in small spaces. The emphasis is on improvisation, creativity and technique.
Futsal started in 1930 when Juan Carlos Ceriani, a teacher in Montevideo, Uruguay, created a version of indoor soccer for recreation in YMCAs.This new sport was originally developed for playing on basketball courts and a rule book was published in September 1933.
His goal was to create a team game that could be played indoor or outdoor but that was similar to football, which became quite popular there after Uruguay won the 1930 World Cup and gold medals in the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics.
Ceriani, writing the rule book, took as examples the principles of football (the possibility to touch the ball with every part of the body except for the hands), and he took rules from other sports too: from basketball the number of team players (five) and the game duration (40 actual minutes) from water polo the rules about the goalkeeper; from team handball for the field and goal sizes.
The YMCA spread the game immediately throughout South America. It was easily played by everyone, everywhere, and in any weather condition, without any difficulty, helping players to stay in shape all year round.
“There were a group of guys that met last January from all over the country at the United Soccer Coaches national convention and formed the AMFUSA executive board. In May, the group traveled to Paraguay to the AMF World Congress to the official affiliation to operate and grow the game of futsal in America.
“So know they are creating the sport of futsal in America,” he added. “I had been talking to Paul LaPointe and then Mark Brown and Zane Cook, the AMF president. So that is how I got into the role of being the Southwest Region Director.
“I manage and run and help grow the sport in all the state over the southwest region,” he added. “I have focused on Oklahoma first and getting it going and will continue to move from state to state. My assistant coach this next year, Tony is the Oklahoma commissioner and through that we will be out growing the game. There are already some existing, but we will be looking to grow more.”
Scott sees the sport to be fast growing since communities on Oklahoma already have the facilities (gymnasiums) and will also be a great way to stay in condition for soccer players during their off-season.
“It is designed to play indoors and is a highly skillful game,” Scott said. “It is a different game, it gets high paced and very skill driven. It is a sport among itself, but it does help soccer.
“The AMF is pushing to get futsal in the Olympics in 2026, but needs 30 countries to compete in the sport and right now there are 26,” he said.
There will be a combine in Norman for players to earn a spot on Team USA Futsal July 27-28. There is a C20 category (15-20 years old) and open men’s and women’s team and a division 10-14.
The C20 and men’s and women’s combines are July 27 from 7-10 p.m. at the OK Premier Sports Complex in Norman.
The 10-14 division is July 28 from 8 a,m, until 10 a.m. A second combined (invitation only) is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the category 20 and men’s and women’s. The registration for the youth division is $50 and for the C20 and men’s and women’s is $100.
Selected players will begin training for the schedule World Cup tournaments.
A national tournament is also set for Aug. 2-5 in Salt Lake City. The tournament is open for all age teams.
“We will start working on putting teams together in all age groups, but not to take place of any soccer,” Scott said. “We will work in conjunction with the soccer seasons, there are other options around that and we have people working on different areas of the city to have teams popping up all over the metro.
“It is not just about us here (in Yukon), but the whole metro and we do have people working on the east side of the state.”
By Chuck Reherman