LOOK! It’s Australian rules football…it’s soccer…it’s…futsal? Elizabeth Yick explores the futsal scene in an AFL-mad city.
Here in Australia, extensive media coverage is almost always given to major international sports competitions. But there was nary a mention about the FIFA Futsal World Cup tournament held last month in Bangkok, Thailand.
At the conclusion of the tournament’s seventh iteration, last year’s winner, Brazil, emerged victorious yet again from a gruelling battle against archrival, Spain. With only 19 seconds of extra-time remaining, Brazilian player, Neto fired the ball into the Spanish net, sealing his country’s fifth FIFA Futsal World Cup title since the competition began in 1989.
Futsal is, essentially, a five-a-side soccer game, played in an indoor area, roughly the size of a basketball court. And despite the lack of local media attention on the sport, futsal has picked up quite a following in Australia, with numerous social competitions managed by various futsal organisations popping up around Melbourne.
One of the more popular competitions is the mixed league, managed by Super5s, on Wednesday evenings at Sportlink, Vermont South. The competition has two divisions with 11 teams each, and requires each team to field at least two female player.
While it may be unusual for women to participate in a fast-paced contact sport with men, most female players are not fazed. Kristina, who plays for two mixed teams, unabashedly states she needs her weekly futsal fix.
Duncan, who works at Deloitte, explains how he and his friends got into the competition.
“It started off as a social thing with my friends from university, so we would see each other once a week and do something healthy and fun,” he says.
“We weren’t very good when we started, but it was still fun!”
The competition also helped Den meet other players.
“After a while, you meet quite a few people that are around the same age, and you end up being pretty good friends.”
Den currently plays in a mixed league, organised by Playfutsal, with his newfound friends.
For those uncomfortable playing against and with the opposite sex, there are plenty of single-sex competitions around.
The Melbourne futsal scene is growing with Playfutsal and Super5s leading the charge. They run various social leagues, for individuals and teams, around the city. There is also FutsalOz for people who want a bigger challenge.