THE performance of the Zambia futsal team at the 2016 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa, calls for serious introspection from the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) on the need to develop the sport.
Futsal is an exciting, fast-paced small sided football game that is played by thousands of adults and children across the world.
Whilst it is a sport in its own right, Futsal does not compete with football but serves to support it by developing skills that make participants better players, both on the soccer pitch and the futsal court.
I was impressed particularly by the display of Chipolopolo defender Adrian Chama, who inspired the futsal squad to the quarterfinals owing to his prowess on the court and was compelled to bring to the fore the importance of investing in the sport.
Futsal is a five-a-side game, normally played on a flat indoor pitch with hockey sized goals and a size four ball with a reduced bounce.
It is played to touchlines and all players are free to enter the penalty area and play the ball over head-height and its games are 20 minutes per half, played to a stopping clock that is similar to basketball with time-outs permitted.
However, the nature of futsal places a large emphasis on technical skill and ability in situations of high pressure, and is subsequently an excellent breeding ground for football competencies that can be translated into the 11-a-side format of the game.
One would ask how South American players adapt so quickly to the different styles of the European elite leagues where they have accounted for themselves so well while showing some peculiar pieces of skill uncommon to any ordinary footballer.
Well, the answer is simple; most players in the Latin America normally graduate from futsal to football hence their versatility, intelligence and agility on the pitch.
There are a number of futsal inspired techniques that we see in most of the goals scored by South Americans. For instance, there was a goal from Ronaldinho, futsal canon during the 2005 UEFA Champions League between Barcelona and Chelsea.
The former Catalan star scored with a toe punt from 20 yards; a finish culminated a shimmying run and was fully intended for scoring.
Another Brazilian playmaker Oscar Dos Santos scored in the 2014 World cup match against Croatia with a similar technique, shooting early with the toe and not allowing the goalkeeper to get set and ready.
Today, fans can admire how world’s best footballer Lionel Messi’s futsal past helped shape his brilliant present.
European players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco (Anderson Luiz de Souza), Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas amongst many others have at some point played futsal to develop their skills.
This justifies how futsal, which seems to receive little attention in Zambia, has helped shape to the destiny of World Cup winning countries on the globe.
Our lads’ impressive display in South Africa is a wakeup call for Zambia and we must become believers that futsal is a very critical sport with far reaching benefits.
Futsal provides a great opportunity for all young players to play a recognised form of five-a-side with a pathway to play in national competitions as they become more agile, faster, stronger and have better balance.
The temperament of the game helps youngsters become more comfortable with the ball and gives them lots of opportunities to practice passing, dribbling, turning, shooting and ball control whilst under pressure.
Therefore, as FAZ embarks on a mission to strengthen and improve grassroots football, there is need to channel some resources to futsal as it is a fantastic development tool for players aged between five and 16 years.
Once we invest in this sport, the perpetual cries of not having adequate natural and efficient strikers in the Chipolopolo squad will be a thing of the past.
May I sign off by congratulating the futsal team for putting up audacious performances against some of the highly fancied teams and pre-tournament favourites.
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