Members of the Burbank Red Machine Soccer Club are experts when it
comes to the rules and inner workings of the world’s most popular
However, a variation of the game -- Futsal -- was something the
locals had no idea about.
That was until the Red Machine had a boys’ under-16 team and a
boys’ under-19 team participated in the U.S. Futsal National
Championships last weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center.
With a crash-course into the unique sport, the local players got
to see what it is like to play a different brand of soccer.
The under-16 team went 2-1 in pool play, but lost out on a playoff
berth because of goal differential.
The under-19 team didn’t fare as well, as it lost its three
matches, despite playing well at times.
“I’ve never played Futsal before and I had never heard of it,”
said Matt Rosenfield, who coached both teams for the Red Machine. “I
saw it on the Internet and I thought it would be fun to give it a
Futsal -- which has its roots in Uruguay in 1930 -- is
five-on-five game similar to indoor soccer, but with some exceptions
and several major differences. The sport has been recognized by FIFA
-- the world governing body of soccer -- since 1988. There has even
been talk about the game eventually becoming an Olympic sport.
“In the world, it’s the fastest growing sport,” said U.S. Futsal
President Alexander Para. “It is played equally by men and women.
Actually, more women play in certain areas of the country.”
Bernie Lilivois, a member of the U.S. National Team, assessed the
differences between Futsal and field soccer.
“It’s a completely different game,” said Lilivois, who played
soccer at Pasadena La Salle High. “Indoor, or Futsal, is a thinking
man’s game. It’s like a chess match out there. There is a lot of fast
footwork skills involved. You have to play a lot of angles, so it’s a
great game to develop skills, especially for the younger kids. When
you play 11 on 11, some kids don’t get a touch on the ball.”
With no grass, cleats, throw-ins, a small court and goal, just
four field players along with a goalie, the Red Machine players got a
taste of something they weren’t accustomed to.
The field in Futsal has no official dimensions and can be played
on any hard surface. It is roughly the size of a basketball court,
and unlike indoor soccer, is played with boundaries. Also, keeping
the ball in bounds is one of the toughest tasks beginners face. The
goals are roughly 10 feet wide and just 6 1/2 feet high, opposed to
outdoor soccer where the goals are 8 feet high and 8 yards wide.
“You learn to think faster, so when you go back to regular soccer,
you have that mentality,” said defender James Hadley, who plays on
the boys’ soccer team at Burbank High.
“On a soccer field, it’s a lot more aggressive. Like I can slide
and take people out. This has a lot of rules and restrictions which I
don’t really like, but you have to get used to it.”
Hadley said Futsal is in some ways a tougher sport.
“You get tired very quick,” Hadley said. “I prefer regular
soccer, but this is pretty cool.”
Burroughs High’s Jiro Kimetlian, who was a teammate of Hadley’s on
the under-16 team, also got a taste of something new.
“The width of the field is very narrow and it’s a lot of quick
shots,” Kimetlian said. “You have to know what you’re doing. There
are quick ball movements. We practiced on cement before and I guess
it worked out.”
Rosenfield said he felt his players learned a lot by playing in
the Futsal tournament.
“At this level, the kids already know how to play on grass, so I
don’t have to do as much coaching,” he said. “Here, they are a bit
more confused and I have to give them a little more direction. It’s
obviously something different and I think it’s good to open
themselves to something different.”