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New Zealand 1, Australia 6
ASB Stadium, Auckland, September 22 2012

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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!!!!

Categories: Futsal

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

5 replies

  1. Good to see you went along to a game.
    Seems like the Futsal Whites have know idea how to defend.
    The reason with having to change an out court player for a goalkeeper is that the GKs in the NZ squad are not good enough skill wise on the ball.
    If NZ football want to take this to a higher standard they need to get the best GKs in the team.
    Take Mainland Football.
    The coach/selector of the Mainland futsal team, told the best keeper in the Mainland region at recent trials that he would not be in the Mainland futsal national league team as a keeper as he had already got 3 keepers! What?
    Why have 3 trials to select the 2nd or 3rd rate players for your squad.

  2. Glad you came along to the game! With regards to the ‘5th man’, this is a very common strategy used in Futsal to try and peg back the competition when time is running out. It was definitely a gamble by our coach but in his defense, we created 2 very good opportunities to score prior to conceding the goals all of which came about because of silly mistakes. We were trying to win the game.. a loss is a loss and we’d already proven that we could come up with a respectable result in the first game. With regards to holding out for further fouls, that definitely would have been a viable option but time was quickly running out.

    Here is a FANTASTIC example of how 5th man is executed correctly (notice how they conceded a goal and continued to run the strategy):

    Bobby, with regards to us having no idea how to defend.. Australia have far more international experience than we do and play at a pace that most of our players have never experienced before. We are actually quite pleased with how we defended considering the circumstances and feel are learning fast according to our coach. Our goal is to qualify for the 2016 World Cup so we’re taking it a step at a time.

    You are correct in suggesting that the 5th man is played with an outfield player because the keepers are not at the same skill level on the ball however as you can see from the clip above, this is the case for some of the best international teams in the world.

    Finally, I’m actually the Mainland keeper and have been for the past 2 years. Keeping in Futsal is completely different from outdoor.. I actually quit outdoor over 6 years ago to focus on Futsal and am still suffering from several ‘bad habits’ from my outdoor days. I’m not involved in our squad selection but I doubt anyone would be turned away if they wanted to trial.. I would suggest any keeper wanting to get involved in Futsal to come down to YMCA (Bishopdale) on Sunday nights and try to find a team! Much easier to get noticed when you’re performing well in the local league 🙂

    We’d love to see more outdoor players get involved in Futsal!

      1. Sure, ping me an email with a little more details on what you’d like to me to cover and I’m sure I can arrange something :)!

  3. When are New Zealand football going to put out the dates for the 2012/13 Futsal National Comp rounds?
    I have found the Dunedin date of 8th & 9th December but nothing for Wellington or Auckland.
    Pretty slack and not good for the sport or sponsors.
    Note that Mainland Football have already got the 2013 MPL draw out.

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