Ronaldinho Futsal Premier League ()Ronaldinho Futsal Premier League () © Copyright

Why you should ditch 5-a-side for Futsal

Want to develop better football skills? This is the form of the game for you


Serial underachievement at international competitions led the FA to launch an inquiry into the state of development of the English game. The resulting document, functionally titled “FA Future Game Coaching Strategy”, outlines a host of criteria to improve the game from the game from the grassroots up.

One of their recommendations is a wider implementation of futsal, the South American variant of 5-a-side that Ronaldo, Messi, Ronaldinho and Pele all played as youngsters.


Small-sided games became popular in the highly populated cities of 1930s Brazil and Uruguay. A lack of space for full-sized pitches meant you had to play on outdoor spaces dictated by urban architecture. Within a few years, rules were formulated and the game was moved indoors and christened Futsal. 

Giggs, Scholes, Solgado Futsal Premier League ()



With Power League still booming in popularity, you might think futsal was an unnecessary addition. While action-packed five-a-side is a good workout and gets you lots of touches on the ball, drill down into the rules and you’ll begin to see the differences and understand why futsal has produced such a slew of world-class 11-a-side players.

The first big difference is that a futsal pitch has touchlines, unlike Power League in which the fattest member of your team can waste 30 seconds by pinning the ball by the wall and fending off opposition with his backside. The goals are a similar shape to hockey goals. Games last 40 minutes and the clock stops every time the ball goes out of play. There’s no over head height rule in futsal, players are allowed in the box and there’s a five foul rule: a penalty is awarded for every foul from the sixth onwards. The ball is also smaller and heavier than a size 5, and has a duller bounce.

Generally the rules help promote a game in which possession is valued, close control is vital and there’s far less emphasis on the more physical aspects of five-a-side. 

Paul Scholes Futsal Premier League ()



Futsal develops a set of highly transferrable footballing skills:

1) The small court encourages players to develop a heightened capacity for finding space in small areas.

2) The smaller heavier ball emphasises the importance of ball skill and close control.

3) In a 40 minute game, futsal players receive the ball five to six times more frequently than they would in a 90 minute 11-a-side game, meaning they can develop football’s technical skills in a competitive arena.

4) The enclosed environment means a player is tightly marked, and his decision making on the ball is accelerated.

5) The speed at which attack can turn into defence means that players are often quickly punished for their mistakes. The result is a greater emphasis on ball retention. Futsal’s long been on the curriculum at La Masia  – Barcelona’s youth academy.

6) As well as intelligent movement, the game encourages intelligent passing. Futsal players can often translate their skills to the 11-a-side game by doing lots of damage in congested spaces at the edge of the opposition box.

7) We’re typically trained to hit shots with our instep or place the ball with the inside of our foot, but futsal players develop far more dextrous finishing abilities. The audacious 20-yard toe poke Ronaldinho scored at Stamford Bridge to eliminate Chelsea from the Champions League in 2005 was a result of futsal development, as was Oscar’s opening goal of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

8) Transition – moving quickly from attack to defence, or vice versa – is fundamental to futsal. Players are all expected to be able to contribute at both ends of the pitch. The idea that an attacker knows exactly what to do when his team loses the ball means tactical awareness.

9) Unlike the constantly rolling subs of five-a-side, timeouts are an integral part of futsal. Youth coaches often discuss the team’s playing style and tactical set up at different points during the game. It means that players become better at understanding instruction, and are better accustomed at handling different scenarios like closing out tight games, or winning from behind. 

Solgado Futsal Premier League ()



Don’t sweat it, the FA aren’t launching an initiative to close down your local five-a-side centre – yet! – but gradually, they just want to give young players more and more exposure to futsal, hoping that in a generation’s time, England will be producing technically superior, tactically aware, rounded footballers. If you like the sound of futsal, then there’s a handful of official centres up and down the country. Alternatively, you can mark out an area in a sports centre and use hockey goals or tape on the walls to begin transforming your game today.


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