There’s a New Game in Town

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Courtesy: BC Local News – Richmond Review www.bclocalnews.com/richmond_southdelta/richmondreview

There’s a new game in town                                        

By Don Fennell
January 09, 2009
                                                                                                                                                                                                               Futsal was first played in 1885 (Editor’s note: highly unlikely) and the modern rules defined by Roger Grain in Uruguay in 1932. But it wasn’t until 1985 that Canadian soccer players were introduced to the fast-paced indoor game which is being endorsed throughout the world as the premier teaching tool for traditional outdoor soccer.

Caribbean-born Frantz Simon coaches the Richmond Crossfire under-16 girls’ soccer team that participated in last weekend’s B.C. Provincial Futsal Championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval. He’s one of futsal’s biggest fans.

“These kids are having a good time,” he points out.

“Yeah, they’re disappointed if they lose but what I really like about the set up is there are no parents shouting and the kids are allowed to do what they think is right. They’re able to think for themselves here. It’s like school-grounds soccer and kids don’t get enough of this.”
Head coach of Richmond girls’ soccer high performance teams and a former member of the Canadian national team and the Toronto Blizzard (North American Soccer League), Simon says he became something of a robot playing here. Like a typical Caribbean player, he used to rely heavily on his instincts but lost a lot of his creativity playing in Canada.

“That’s a problem with our sports world, in Canada especially,” suggests Simon.

“Johnny won’t go to practice unless his mom and dad say there’s a practice today. And if Johnny does something wrong at practice the coach is saying ‘That’s not the way it’s done.’ There has to be a time for being creative and futsal offers that. No one’s thinking for themselves anymore.”
The Crossfire weren’t perfect at the provincial championships, but Simon didn’t care. He says there is too much emphasis on the score instead of what the players attempt and learn. He was elated that the players were confident enough to try things they probably wouldn’t on the outdoor pitch.
“That’s why they call soccer the beautiful game,” he says.

“You’ve got to enjoy it. My team was doing things I’ve been trying to teach but the players hadn’t been able to grasp and now they’re doing those things. It’s given them confidence to know things like little give-and-goes and flip-ons work.”

Simon noted that futsal almost forces the players to learn to support each other. He says because the game is played in tight quarters and is so fast-paced, players have to focus on what everyone is doing and be able to make plays by being aggressive.

“The game is all about marking and interceptions,” he says. “You can’t sit back and let your teammate do all the work.”

No one really knew what futsal was when the Canadian Soccer Association was asked to form a team to participate in the World Cup in Spain in 1985, says Charlie Cuzzetto, chair of the B.C. Soccer Futsal Committee. “There were 12 countries participating and FIFA hadn’t gotten on board yet either. But FIFA soon recognized futsal had a future as a development game.”

In Canada, explains Cuzzetto, it took a little longer to organize futsal. But it’s now beginning to take off in Ontario and some smaller communities because the game is played is smaller spaces and in gymnasiums.

“In such a vast country it just make sense to play futsal as opposed to the old arena-style soccer where the ball bounced a lot and it was hard to get a touch,” he says.

“A few coaches have mentioned to me that they only started playing a couple of years ago and can’t believe the improvement in the kids,” continues Cuzzetto. “ It still has to be sold to a lot of districts but with this Richmond Oval, and it being in the Lower Mainland, it presents a great opportunity for a number of futsal activities during the winter months. And it allows Richmond to be one of the leaders in B.C., if not the country, in focusing on more development.”

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