From Sept. 30 to Oct. 19 , Brazilian cities Rio de Janeiro and Brasila will host the sixth futsal World Cup - the most important event in indoor football. Twenty teams from five continents will vie for the world champion title.
Europe will be represented by six teams (Spain, Russia, Italy, Portugal, Ukraine and the Czech Republic), Latin America by four (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), while the rest of America will have three competing teams (USA, Cuba and Guatemala). Five countries will be present from Asia (Iran, China, Japan and Thailand), two from Africa (Egypt and Libya), while the Salomon Islands will be the sole country from Asia and the Pacific
Futsal (contraction of Futebol de Salão) or indoor football, originated in the 1930s in the schools of São Paolo to compensate for the lack of playing fields. The sport soon spread through Latin America and then gained notoriety across the world.
As compared to traditional football, futsal has fewer players, and can be adapted to indoor stadiums of different sizes. The sport is thus practiced by more people than in traditional football, though its popularity is far less.
A typical futsal team has five players, including a goalkeeper. The ball used is smaller and heavier than in traditional football. Meticulous technique and swiftness is thus required of the futsal player, a reason why the sport has become compulsory in football training schools. As the saying goes in the football community, a professional footballer starts his career in futsal and ends it in beach soccer.
Falcao, the most spectacular player in the world
Football fans know that stars like Brazil’s Zico or Cantona from France finished their careers in beach soccer. But few know that the majority of renowned professional footballers started off as futsal players.
Until the late 1980s, FIFA did not allow the association of the term football with the indoor version of the sport, hence the name futsal. The sport’s overwhelming success compelled the federation to finally integrate futsal into its structure.
Three world cup championships were held prior to FIFA integration. Brazil won the first two titles and Paraguay won the third. Following futsal’s acceptance by FIFA, five world tournaments have been held. Brazil won the first three in 1989, 1992 and 1996. The last two world championships in 2000 and 2004 crowned Spain.
Taking into account their previous titles, Spain, led by 34 year-old Javi, and Brazil, captained by 31 year-old Falcao – known as the most spectacular player in the world – are the two obvious favourites. Many are already hoping for a clash between the two teams in the final, in which Brazil hopes to wrench away the world title from the defending champions.
However, over the years, other teams like Argentina, Russia, Italy, Portugal, Egypt and Iran have shown much improvement. This year’s futsal World Cup may well bring forth a surprise winner.