This weekend I’m due to start my tenth season in senior futsal. Over that time I’ve played for Loughborough, London United, and Baku/London City/Southend. And over that time I’ve seen the sport grow massively.
There are often negative comments on social media. Some believe that futsal in England is going backwards. To any who truly believe that to be the case, I invite them to watch any video from 10 years ago and see the difference. The reality is that futsal in England has never been in a better place.
When I first started out, games were played in empty sports halls against teams that were lumped together from whoever fancied a run-out. A number of games were pointless. The question wasn’t whether we were going to win – it was whether we were going to win by five or ten goals. And this was for a mid-table team.
Now there are no easy games. You can no longer score 20 goals in a home fixture against Hereford, for example. Last season, my team beat Helvecia – arguably the best side in the league – yet lost against both teams that were relegated. If you have an off day in the Super League, you’re going to get punished. Which is exactly how it should be.
I can’t remember ever playing in front of a decent crowd in an away fixture back then. Now you have clubs such as Cambridge, Manchester, Salisbury and York that attract hundreds of fans to games. These clubs in particular have realised that you can’t develop a sport by being a team. You have to be a club.
With every season, more futsal clubs are becoming clubs, rather than teams. Development games take place before first team games, academy players come to watch fixtures, games are streamed online with the help of companies such as The Daily Futsal, and all the time the quality coming in to English futsal gets better. Clubs are raising awareness, which increases participation, which then ensures high quality young players are being developed.
When I started playing, participation amongst English players was low – especially in London. Not many people had heard of the sport, with universities being the starting point for many National League players. Now there are thriving academies up and down the country. The players that places such as ProFutsal, Finta, London Wizards and Bocas are producing will continue to push the overall quality of the league and ensure the sport continues to develop.
We’ve got a tough start to the coming season. We play Helvecia, who are probably favourites for the title. This is another positive change. Ten years ago the top few teams had a few token English players who might get a couple of minutes here or there. Now, with the new 50/50 ruling, all the best teams rely on English talent. And none more so than Helvecia.
We’ve got a number of talented young players who will only get better as the season goes on. With a new name, new coach and largely new squad, it may take some time to adapt. But once we do, I think we’ll surprise a few people.
Let’s see what happens…