Futsal gaining foothold as alternative to soccer
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By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
The Brazilians may have exited the World Cup in the quarterfinals, but their soccer influence is still alive everywhere — including Hawai'i.
Futsal, made popular via Brazil's high-profile players and their excellent ball-handling skills, is a miniaturized version of soccer — with smaller dimensions and goals, and fewer players, designed to foster creativity and improvisation.
Futsal is picking up popularity in Hawai'i, evident this past Saturday at the crowded Joga3 Futsal Festival outside NIKETOWN in Waikiki, a 3-on-3 tournament with a "field" about the size of a quarter of a basketball court.
"When kids start playing on their own without coaching and structure, they start being more creative. That's what we lack in American soccer," said Kawika Del Rosario, who helped organize the Joga3 tournament.
Futsal usually is played indoors on a court the size of a basketball court, with a ball that is smaller and heavier than the size of a soccer ball adults play with.
With its origins in street play — think soccer pick-up games played on a hard surface — players are allowed to work on foot skills and take creative chances.
Del Rosario said that is part of the reason he is trying to promote futsal in Hawai'i.
"If you look at the Brazilian players, who grow up playing street soccer, they are the best players in the world," said Del Rosario, who runs Futsal Hawaii. "Think about American basketball players, they learn how to play at the parks. They already have the creative flair, then you put them in leagues and teach them."
Quick moves, flicks, quicker releases, combination passes, the ability to take a player on and beat them — all come into play in this high-energy, fast-paced game.
It's why Marcos Santos, the director of coaching for the Windward Soccer Club, wants to start a league of his own.
"Futsal gives them fast footwork; it makes you think before you get the ball," he said. "It's a very fast pace."
Santos pointed out that the famous Brazilians, including Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, grew up playing futsal on the street before being picked up by professional teams.
Both the U.S. Youth Soccer Association and the American Youth Soccer Organization, strong national youth soccer organizations, have ties to U.S. Futsal, according to the U.S. Futsal Federation.
U.S. Futsal, which has a national team, has conducted a national championship every year since 1985.
Jeremy Wittig, who will play on Creighton's soccer team in the fall, was on the winning team at the Joga3 tournament. Although he excels on the grass field, Wittig's skills are enhanced with futsal.
"You have to play much faster," he said. "You can't hold on to the ball. You have to be aware of the people around you.
"It makes you think before you get the ball, because people are on you so quickly. And you have to play without looking at the ball."
Traditionally, futsal is a 5-on-5 game, including goalkeepers, and it develops a player's defensive and offensive skills. All four field players are in constant movement and are responsible for being able to score and stop scores as well.
"I like it because (I get to play with) my friends and it's fun and because I like soccer," said 8-year-old Paige Shimabuku, who will be a third-grader at Iolani.
Shimabuku, who plays for the Honolulu Soccer Club Bulls '98 team, said that although outdoor soccer is her favorite of the two, she still likes futsal because "you can make all your moves. My foot skills have improved, and it's faster. You do a lot more dribbling than on the grass."
Iovo Stefanov, a former all-conference player for Hawai'i Pacific men's soccer team, said futsal helps improve a player's field vision and quickness with and without the ball.
It's also convenient. With fewer players and less space, possibilities for a pick-up game are easier than an 11-on-11 game on a normal soccer field that is approximately 120 yards by 70 yards.
But it can expose weaknesses as well.
"It tests your skills in a really small area," Stefanov said. "On a big field, if you aren't as good you can make it up if you're in good shape."
For a chance to see futsal, head to Kalaheo High's gym this weekend for "The Showdown" presented by Nike & Futsal Hawaii. From 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., tomorrow and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, approximately 20 teams will be playing for a $1,500 gift prize to the winners of the tournament.
Reach Leila Wai at firstname.lastname@example.org.