Wednesday 15 February 2012
Youth coaches have hailed the Barclays Premier League Futsal Finals as a success, saying the format will help the development of younger players.
The Finals pitted together the cream of Premier League Academy teams and two of the biggest futsal clubs in Spain - Barcelona and Inter Movistar from Madrid.
In the Under-12 category, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion qualified from the three Premier League regional finals, with Manchester City becoming the overall winners.
"It's a fantastic game, it's fast, it's quick and the boys really like playing it"
- West Bromwich Albion's Ryan Maye
Everton, West Brom and Fulham made it through to the Under-15 finals which took place at the end of January, with Barcelona ending up as champions.
Futsal, a FIFA and UEFA recognised version of small-sided football, is essentially a five-a-side form of the game but with some innovative twists.
The players use a ball that has reduced bounce, on a court with hockey-sized goals and without boards at the side, which places emphasis on technique, speed of thought, decision-making and movement.
"It can only be beneficial for English football and youth development going forward," said Manchester City Under-12 manager Gareth Whalley.
"The players get lots of touches of the ball. There's lots of transitions in the game, from attack to defence and defence to attack, so it gets them thinking.
"They have got to anticipate things, rather than react to things, because if you react it’s too late as it is such a small court. I can't see anything but good in it really."
West Bromwich Albion's Head of Academy Performance Ryan Maye also believes futsal is a positive environment for players to learn skills they can take to the 11-a-side game.
"It's a fantastic game, it's fast, it's quick and the boys really like playing it so it's a good thing for them to do," he said. "At younger ages futsal is massively important for youth development. You have got to learn to manage the ball and play in tight areas.
"The feedback we have had from clubs has been really positive"
- Premier League's Neil Saunders
"The more experiences they can have, the better their learning outcomes will be.
"They have to solve problems on the pitch if they are going to make it at the top level. You put them into an environment they are not used to, new rules that they have to adapt to and they have to learn quickly.
"In years to come, those learning experiences will hopefully put them in a situation where they can use it on an 11-a-side pitch."
Futsal is a key part of the Premier League Winter Games Programme, a scheme which sees a variety of indoor activities provided for the clubs and their academies.
"With less and less time spent playing football in the street, this is as close to street football as you can get," said Premier League Games Programme and Youth Development Administrator Neil Saunders.
"The feedback we have had from clubs has been really positive. We are committed to keeping futsal as part of our Games Programme.
"The more intelligent and skilful players, they quickly adapt to the different game and the different demands of futsal. They are not behind the Spanish clubs."
As well as being a competitive learning experience for the Academy players, the tournament also gave coaches the chance to learn, with the Barcelona coaching team giving a presentation to their Premier League counterparts.
"It was interesting listening to the Barcelona coaches,” added Whalley. "You can obviously pick up things and how you can transfer the skills into 11-a-side. It's educational for the coaches as well as the players.
"It's great to see what other teams do. They do the rotation very well, they move around the court very well and the little finer points of the game, the toe-poking and rolling the ball under your foot. It's all things we can learn and hopefully transfer to 11-a-side."
"To play against international clubs, especially Premier League clubs, is an amazing sensation"
- Inter Movistar's Cesar Munoz
Spain have a rich tradition in futsal, with the country recently winning the European Championship for the fourth time in a row, while Inter Movistar are multiple winners of the FIFA Intercontinental Futsal Cup.
But even with their history of success, Inter Movistar's youth director of futsal Cesar Munoz says his club were able to learn from their Premier League opponents during the Finals.
"We can see the difference between the British players and the Spanish players, physically," he said.
"They are very strong and we need to develop our physical side because it really makes the difference regarding tackles and the way they counter attack. We need to work on this."
And Munoz added that he hopes to be back to take part in more Premier League futsal events.
"For the kids it was amazing because for most of them it was the first time they came abroad to play a tournament," he said.
"Then to play against international clubs, especially Premier League clubs, is an amazing sensation. I thank the Premier League for organising it."