Thousands of youngsters will be able to develop their talent indoors this winter playing the game that honed the skills of Neymar and Lionel Messi
It is mid-December but the clock is already ticking on the countdown to the inevitable rainy season that routinely plays havoc with the grassroots youth football calendar around the country. So it was timely for the FA to announce on Monday that it is trying to dismantle the barriers blocking access to school halls to allow young footballers to seek refuge from the cold and try the game that formed a legion of footballing superstars: futsal.
Grants from the Football Foundation totalling £300,000 will be made available for schools, colleges and youth football leagues. The aim is to create 200 futsal hubs, exposing at least 12,000 more children to the fast-paced five-a-side game that Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and the Spanish rondo brigade credit with honing their impeccable skills as youngsters.
“Futsal in schools needs to happen,” says Michael Skubala, the FA’s futsal elite performance manager and head coach of the England team. “Until we start doing futsal properly, we probably aren’t going to win a football World Cup like Spain and Brazil. These nations are all doing it on a massive scale, all their kids are doing it. And the constraints of the game are showing us that it gives us huge football returns later down the line.”
With a fair wind most of the hubs could be up and running by the time the mercury plummets. County FAs will oversee the centres, ensuring supply meets demand. The schools and colleges taking part will in turn have a futsal-ready hall for their pupils to use. In the age of austerity in the state school sector it also offers an income stream when hired out for community use.