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The Exciting History Of Small-Sided Soccer And More

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Small-sided soccer has always been one of Charles Russell Leone’s favorite sports. Russell Leone used to play small-sided soccer every Saturday. It was a way for him to blow off some steam, stay in shape and spend time with his friends. Small-sided soccer was also what led him to pursue club soccer later on. It made him fall in love with the game. He became one with the ball when he hit the field. His team even became one of the best small-sided soccer teams in San Antonio.

This sport is in Europe, where it’s often called Futsal. But it is not to be mistaken for American football whose rules and gameplay are entirely different. There are still doubts about how to say right: small-sided soccer or futsal? But to solve this mystery and find out more about the history of this sport, let’s go back to the 30s, to Montevideo in Uruguay!

Brief History of Small-Sided Soccer (Futsal)

People who are devoted to this game love to say that small-sided soccer was created after the First World Cup in 1930 in this South American country. This event has caused a great desire in every Uruguayan boy to ‘kick the ball.’ This was when one physical education teacher came up with a great idea.

Namely, professor Juan Carlos Seriani realized that each school had enough space for a field that would be approximately 40×20 meters. The area would also be covered. As a result, this small field would allow for a smaller variant of football in poor weather conditions. In 1933, he wrote the first rules for a new sport: Football in the hall, Futebol de salao (Portuguese) or Futbol de salon (Spanish). In time, the term Futsal was accepted all over the world. In America, we usually refer to it as small-sided soccer.

As early as 1936, some of the rules of small-sided soccer have been improved in Brazil. Ultimately, Brazil turned into the main development center of this great game. Then, in 1954, the first organization of small-sided soccer in Rio de Janeiro was formed. However, the most crucial step forward was made in 1960. The South American Futsal Confederation (CSFS), established in the period from 1965-1979, organized seven continental competitions. It was a huge step that changed the game forever and made it as popular as it is today.

FIFA showed a lack of interest in the sport at that time. But the desire of the people who played small-sided soccer to internationalize this sport led to the formation of FIFA ‘Federacion Internacional de Futbol Sala’ on July 25, 1971. The honorary president in the period from 1971-1973 was João Havelange, who will head FIFA in 1974.

Then, in 1982, the First World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil was held. Ten countries attended the cup. Later in 1985, Spain hosted the Second World Cup. There were 12 countries from 4 continents, and the finale in the Community of Madrid Sports Centre with 14,000 spectators soon followed!

Only two years later, FIFA takes this sport under its umbrella. In 1989, the Netherlands became the host of the First World Championship under the auspices of FIFA.

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The Rules of Small-Sided Soccer

The first recorded rules of small-sided soccer were, in fact, a mixture of rules from soccer, basketball, handball and water polo. Over time, the rules changed a lot. One of the more interesting rules was that throw-ins were done by hand. This rule was practiced up until about ten years ago. Also, the goalkeeper’s position suffered probably the most significant changes, all in order to increase the speed of the game itself.

Even today, most tournaments, school competitions or recreational competitions are played in a manner that is incompatible with the rules of small-sided soccer. This includes playing with a soccer ball, on a field with two goals, with five players in the field, etc.

Here are some of the basic rules of futsal:

  • Playing Field: The length of the field is at least 25×16 m (82×62 ft). The maximum length 42x25m (138×82 ft). It’s mandatory that the field has a rectangular shape.
  • The Goal: Dimensions of the goal: 3m wide, height 2m, with rounded tripods and a crossbar.
  • The Ball: The ball in small-sided soccer is a size-4-ball that usually weighs around 400 g, that is 14-16 oz.
  • The Number of Players: There are four players on each side and a goalkeeper on each goal. Twelve players at most can be used in one game.

The Number of Substitutions: The coach is allowed an unlimited number of substitutions during one game. However, the maximum number of substitutes that FIFA allows in nine. Substitutions can be made at any point, but a player must leave the field before his replacement enters it.

The Goalkeeper: The goalkeeper has the right to own the ball only once during the attack of his team. He can hold the ball until the opponent touches the ball, or the ball goes beyond the boundaries of the court. After that, he can once again be in contact with the ball, but only using his foot. If this rule is violated, it is considered an indirect foul.

Duration of the Game: The game lasts for two halves, each lasting 20 minutes. The time is stopped at every dead ball. The players take a 15-minute break between the two periods. Each team is allowed to use only one time-out per half. The time-out can last only one minute.

The Penalties: For a violation, or hitting the ball with your hand in the penalty area, a penalty kick of 6 meters (20 ft) is performed. It is the so-called “small penalty.’ Each team can make five fouls in the field during a single half. However, each penalty after the 5th one is followed by a 10-meter shot (33 ft). It is the so-called ‘big penalty.’

Aficionados of this sport, like Charles Russell Leone IV, will often say that small-sided soccer is ‘the most important side thing in the world.’ But one thing is certain. That is that futsal will surely be going shoulder to shoulder with its big brother very soon.

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