With a new varsity season well under way and teams forming for the upcoming year, one sport that hasn’t got the recognition it deserves in recent years is futsal. The BU men’s team have reached the national finals for the past 2 years, and with new head coach Luke Williams, an ex – England international, taking over reigns for the season, the finals are in sight again.
Luke, a graduate from BU and captain of the varsity futsal team in 2009 said that although he had to wait to see the calibre of the players he was inheriting the “target is always to reach the national finals.”
BU will compete in the BUCS Premier League Western, alongside the likes of; Plymouth, Hartpury, Bath and Gloucestershire and whilst Bath always produce strong varsity teams, Luke claimed you never know where supremacy will lie.
“It’s the same with any varsity sport, year on year everything changes. It depends on what players you keep, what squad you inherit, if you get some good new players come in then you can compete, but it varies every season.”
As for the league season, which kicked off on the 26th October, Luke said the team will play 5 or 6 league games throughout the year at annual tournaments, making each game pivotal for the side’s success, in the sense that 2 losses could ultimately end a side’s contention for the nationals.
“We have to prepare carefully, as normally the tournaments are hosted in collective arenas, with teams playing up to 2 games a tournament. BU is actually hosting one of the rounds at the University this year, so we’ll benefit from the home advantage.”
With futsal’s South American origins, the game is played at a much higher intensity than regular 11 a side, or even 5 a side, due to its focus on creativity and ball control. With 5 players including a goal keeper, teams play indoors in tight pitch conditions, and Luke claimed that technical ability is massive to be successful in futsal:
“You need to be comfortable on and off the ball, as well as comfortable with both feet. There are no set positions as such, so you have to be tactically astute and prepared to defend as well as attack.”
“All the elements of a good sport player are pivotal in futsal.”
Luke himself has played futsal internationally for England, and said that his transition from 5 a side football was the best decision he could have made:
“I started with 5 a side football, and was invited along to some England futsal trials. I played a few games for England so I was thrown in at the deep end and managed to go down the futsal route. I just loved the sport and have been playing ever since.”
A sport which boasts responsibility for the skills of the likes of Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos, futsal requires a much more energetic approach to football, with the focus on small, intricate play to form attacks. As well as this, the pressure of constantly having to be aware of everything around you makes the game one of high intensity.
As for his love of the sport, Luke maintained that although 11 a side is great to play; he preferred futsal for the opportunity to contribute so much more to the team:
“11 a side can be really frustrating. You could have 10 touches in 90 minutes, but in futsal you have so many touches of the ball that you’re constantly involved in the high intensity of the game.”
This is obviously an increasingly popular view with players looking for new challenges, as BUCS University futsal leagues are growing in numbers ever year, with more and more participating universities signing up for futsal. Yet although at a Varsity level the sport is growing, Luke said that internationally, England are still in the “developmental stage” and need much more work to challenge the world’s best teams.
“Your top futsal sides are the likes of Spain, Italy, and the South American teams from which the game originated. England are a long way down the rankings at the moment at 89th, but they are building up.”
So although England are a long way off producing the next string of Rivaldos; at a varsity level futsal continues to go from strength to strength, and the upcoming season for both BU and the UK promises to be one to watch.
The futsal season kicked off on the 26th October but training still runs Friday 8-10pm in the Sports Hall as Talbot Campus if you’re interested in playing in the upcoming season. You can keep up with the progress of both the men’s and women’s teams through the BUCS website: www.bucs.org.uk.