A 5-a-side player’s guide to watching Futsal

Last week saw the drawing of matches for the 24th FIFA Futsal World Cup. Although the UK team did not qualify this year the sport is rapidly getting more and more supporters in the country. This should not come as much of a surprise as many of us grow up on and around 5-a-side pitches. We play it at school or on the grass behind our house as kids and for many it is the gateway drug to actual football. A recent poll showed that as many as 1.25 million UK residents can still be found on 5-a-side pitches around the country on a weekly basis, and that number is rapidly growing.

As such it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the interest in Futsal is increasing as well. Although there are some slight differences between the two games, they are in its core game play practically the same. And although 5-a-side is not known anywhere but in the U.K. Futsal is rapidly gaining popularity as an international sport. We will explain some of the major differences.

The Teams
Both games use five players per team, one of which is the keeper. In 5-a-side the number of substitutes is limited, as it is in regular football. In Futsal however, teams use up to seven rolling substitutes, keeping the players in field relatively fresh and ensuring a high tempo throughout the game.

The Pitch
Traditional 5-a-side pitches are lined with rebound boards, ensuring the ball doesn’t leave play and because of this the game is practically continuous. Futsal however uses the same lines we know from Football and if the ball crosses the borders of the field it will be returned to play by a kick-in. Another major difference is that the Futsal field is slightly longer and wider than normal 5-a-side pitches. Its goals are squarer (2mx3m) than the hockey goals used by 5-a-side and the ball used is slightly smaller and has less bounce than a football.

The Rules
Unlike 5-a-side there is no height restriction on the ball, giving he players more options to escape confinement on the small field. Futsal players are also free to enter the penalty zones, something that is restricted to keepers in 5-a-side. But the rule that makes the biggest difference between the two games is the limitation of fouls.

In regular 5-a-side as in football the number of fouls made by a team is unlimited. In Futsal however, the number of fouls is limited to five per team each game. Every foul after the fifth results in an instant free kick from ten meters. Because of this players are very careful not to foul and even though the game is played on a small pitch collisions and physical contact between players are rare. The fancy footwork the game is famous for is a direct result of this rule.

If you like watching the play style of famous football players like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho give this year’s Futsal World Cup a watch. They developed their skills playing this small sided game. The first matches will be held on November 1st, but if you really want to watch an explosive match watch Argentina VS Italy on November 5th, or any game Brazil is in. Those matches are sure to impress. And who knows, you might like it so much you’ll find yourself explaining the rules to your mates next time you head down to the 5-a-side pitches next Sunday.