New Zealand 1, Australia 6
ASB Stadium, Auckland, September 22 2012
Last night I attended my first ever game of futsal, a variant of football that I have never paid any attention to in the past. Indoor football has always seemed to me a similar sort of proposition to 20/20 cricket – a marketing exercise designed to attract almost fans with zero patience and no attention spans. A dumbed down version of an intelligent game.
As a purist, I love the chess-like tactics and nuance of football. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t need a car chase to enjoy a movie. I don’t need death and mayhem to be interested in the news. I don’t need lots of quick points to enjoy sport and I certainly don’t need silly names like ‘Futsal Whites’ and ‘Futsalroos’.
But futsal surprised me a little bit. It is quite tactical albeit at a high-octane pace. At first glance it seemed very similar to handball. When a team goes on defence everyone sprints back to the edge of the penalty area and spreads out while their opponents pass it around looking for an opening. When the attacking team appears bored, they try to bludgeon through, more often than not losing possession in the process, and sprinting back onto defence themselves.
Of course there is a lot more to it than that. For starters there are the substitutions. While there are only five players on each side including the goalkeeper, the benches are enormous and the substitutions unlimited. They happen at breakneck speed throughout the game and at times the whole team is subbed on and off. I couldn’t even begin to understand what the rationale was – if it was just replacing tired legs or if there are deeper tactical reasons.
Another interesting tactical situation arose late in yesterday’s match when Australia had committed the requisite 5 fouls in a half that results in an automatic penalty kick for all future fouls. New Zealand slotted their penalty that resulted from Australia’s 6th to bring the score back to a respectable 1-3. But they then tried to chase the result by subbing the keeper off while on attack, and very quickly subbing him back on when on defence. This resulted in three quick counterattacking goals for Australia that ruined the whole experience a little bit for me.
I could see why you would do it, but once it resulted in one goal the game was out of reach so why keep going with it? Practice? Maybe, but this was an international game against our country’s greatest sporting rivals. Were they not taking it seriously? It turned a close match into a massacre for no good reason. Why wouldn’t you just hold your nerve and try to draw further accumulated fouls?
Anyway, obviously this is a game I know little about so shouldn’t be too critical and other than that it was a very enjoyable evening out. I must say also that my partner thoroughly enjoyed it and she’s someone who is usually bored out of her tree at football. Not sure I’ll be going out of my way to attend another game myself but I can certainly understand the appeal and its place in the football world.
Now roll on some proper football. Come on ASB Premiership, hurry up and start already!!!!
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.