Canadian Futsal at a Crossroads

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CANADIAN FUTSAL AT A CROSSROADS

As written in the January/February edition of Inside SOCCER Magazine, Canada’s oldest, largest and most respected soccer publication.

Inside SOCCER Magazine can be purchased at your local Chapters, Indigo and Coles bookstores.


By: Kris Fernandes

Since our last issue, a ton has transpired in the world of Canadian futsal and the growing buzz surrounding the game is unprecedented. But hype alone isn’t enough to progress it. We are at a serious fork in the road right now and for the good of the game the time is now to choose the correct path to bring the sport to the highest levels possible.

On the technical development side, many readers asked us who was selected for the two recent FIFA Futsal Courses that came here and what will it mean for Canadian futsal? 

In October, a pair of groundbreaking FIFA Courses took place. In Laval, Quebec, a 5 day futsal coaching course was conducted for 31 coaches, representing 6 provinces, including two guests from Africa, to learn the basic fundamentals of coaching the 5 a-side game. Having split the costs of the course between them, Ontario and Quebec’s provincial associations were allocated most of the 31 spots with 12 and 13 respectively, while BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick filled out the list. Six of the participants, including yours truly, were selected as futsal specific coaches while the rest were of a high level soccer coaching pedigree. 

The course, taught by American Constantine Konstin, was surprisingly not a certification course but an introductory one meant to help spread basic futsal coaching principles to new coaches in their respective regions. If the coaches do share the knowledge, it will certainly result in more kids playing futsal, which is precisely the whole point. The next step must be the creation of a domestic certification course which should be constructed by accomplished Canadian futsal coaches in harmony and with support from the CSA and FIFA.

During the same week In Ottawa, an entry level Futsal Referee Course was led by US Soccer Instructor Jeff Kilmeyer and assisted by CSA Referee Director, Joe Guest. Officials from 10 provinces/territories, including newly selected OSA Futsal Committee Chair Bob Tibbo, attended the 3 day course. One of the biggest problems in Canadian futsal continues to be the clarification of rules with so many variations being utilized. This course will ultimately help bridge the gap in understanding the game’s current rules, the 2010 FIFA Futsal Laws of the Game. 

Having an improved top class of referees will undoubtedly benefit everyone participating in various competitions. One of these will be the Copa Canada; the Canadian Futsal Championships. Taking place from April 1-3rd 2011 in Toronto, the tournament is open to all futsal and indoor soccer teams with first priority going to league and provincial futsal champions. Squads from BC, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario are expected to compete in youth and adult divisions for Canada’s top futsal title.

Surely some of those hunting for gold will come from the west coast as a promising new futsal league has emerged in Richmond through the Vancouver Futbol Academy. Two former Canadian U20 national soccer players, Michael D’Agostino and Alex Elliott, have established the Vancouver Futsal League which will operate on the beautiful, blue sport tile surfaces inside of the impressive Richmond Olympic Oval, a venue that was used at the Vancouver Winter Games. 


THE NATIONAL TEAM DILEMMA

With the 2012 CONACAF Futsal Championships looming just around the corner, the Canadian National Futsal Team Program is again facing major hurdles that must be addressed by the CSA. There has been zero funding for futsal in the past several years and the 2011 budget is continuing that unfortunate trend. ISM has been told by the CSA that a team will compete at the continental championship event, a tournament that provides 3 berths into the rapidly-growing 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand. But without any funding for identifying the best futsal players, training camps, or exhibition games, how can the team reasonably expect to compete? A better question is how will the national team be selected?
 

If it’s anything like how the national beach soccer team was selected in November, the futsal team will be comprised of mostly Alberta based soccer players where head coach Ross Ongaro resides. This method of selection needs to change immediately for any chance of success to occur. 

Ongaro, a former arena soccer and CPSL standout, was named national futsal and beach soccer coach in 2003 despite having no real futsal playing or coaching experience. But when opportunity knocks you take it and nobody can blame Ongaro one bit for doing so. However, with no money available for identifying the top futsal talent, conducting training camps, or playing exhibition games, the 51 year-old teacher has been forced to train 11 a-side players in close proximity with an occasional hand-picked player by other executives.  

Naturally, this has frustrated everybody in the futsal community, so to assist the CSA in building a proper foundation for elite competitions, a new program created by the Futsal Canada group of leagues called F-PIC’s (Futsal Player Identification Camps) is aiming to immediately fill this gap. The plan is to identify and train the crème de la crème of Canadian futsal talent and will be run by the best futsal specific minds and players that the country has to offer, including the highly respected Lorenzo Redwood, coach of the multiple championship winning Toronto Impact Futsal Club. 

The best 80 players between 14-17 years + 40 mens players are currently being scouted by technical directors across several leagues in Ontario and Quebec, where the overwhelming majority of elite futsal talent currently plays. These players will then be invited to train, for free, over the February 19-21st weekend, in a series of excellent on court and classroom training sessions. The top mens players from the camp will then travel as a club this spring to 3 CONCACAF countries to play a series of friendlies against some of the best futsal clubs and possibly national teams.

This is a program the CSA should be jumping at to work with and broaden across the board. The leagues would like to finally see a return on their investment through their years of monetary contributions via registration dollars and they simply aren’t getting any. 

The new CSA Futsal Committee is being chaired by longtime futsal advocate and current BC Soccer President, Charlie Cuzzetto, who is assembling a cast this month and let’s hope a highly-effective panel is put together. A good start would be to contact London, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto’s leagues to attract the best futsal-specific personnel as they’ve been growing the game for a long time and understand what it takes to build a winner. 

Cuzzetto should know that he finally has the best futsal resources available to him to create a long-term sustainable program that would truly leave a lasting legacy behind that all Canadians can be proud of. All he simply needs to do now is reach out to them.   

Check out www.futsalcanada.ca for everything in the world of Canadian futsal.

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