100 % futsal

2017-06-01

The careful visitor may have discovered this already, but for some of you this will be a bit of news. In this year, I have taken a little calmer year, mostly because I have taken parental leave. Football / soccer has been less important, but futsal has gotten more space. You have probably also noticed this on my posts, which in the most recent past have basically exclusively been about futsal.

Now I have taken a new step in my career. I will invest fully in futsal. 100 %.

It has been a simple and difficult decision at the same time. Of course, I still love football / soccer, but my relationship with the sport has become more complicated. The coach assignments I have been offered in football / soccer have unfortunately not been what I wanted. At the same time, I have been interested more and more in futsal, which in many ways is a much more dynamic and exciting sport than football / soccer in many areas.

In a short period of time, I have built my name and received many interesting requests in the futsal world. Everything from being an expert commentator and tactic blogger to exciting coach assignments. I have been appreciated in the futsal world in a completely different way than from the competitive football / soccer universe. This is obviously great fun, but I have also learned a couple of things about my coach career.

I see this change a bit like many players are watching their careers. Some would like to be a forward, a world class striker who wins individual titles. But they soon realize that they are not competent enough. They may be the fifth choice on the coach’s list, not even on the bench. But then they saddle to be a left back and suddenly they can play continuously in the staring eleven every weekend. A wise career decision, of course.

I have thought football / soccer was fun, but despite my education and qualifications, I get a relatively uninteresting coach assignments so far. In futsal, however, organizations are screaming for competent leaders, and for that reason I have been able to advance there in a short space of time.

This is not just a cynical decision. In fact, I’ve had a lot of fun with futsal, got a spark of the sport that I missed during a period of football. / soccer. It is an extremely challenging sport for a coach, extremely flexible and places great demands. At the same time, the opportunities are great and that’s what attracts me – To be involved and build something from scratch.

In order to really succeed in a sport of my age, I think it’s important to determine the focus and therefore I have now decided to go all-in on futsal. Making such a commitment also shows that I am serious.

This does not mean farewell to football / soccer, I still love the sport, but the futsal will be what I spend all my time on from now on. In addition, to focus on two parallel tracks when I’m a parent is nothing to recommend, so a clearer focus area is needed. Which now is futsal. This because I want to learn more and develop into an equally good expert as a coach in my field.

My goal is not only to learn more and develop myself. Above all, I want as many as possible to get to know the wonderful sport futsal. It’s a great sport that many people would love, so I want to spread it as much as it goes. If I then take over a team and be successful – It’s a plus, but spreading the sport and increasing the level of education among coaches, players and audiences is the primary. I think I have a lot to contribute there with my interest in coaching.

So, 100% futsal, then.

As you know, I am currently an expert at the swedish site Futsalmagasinet and at the Swedish Futsal League’s (SFL) broadcasts, and I will also have a finger in the game for the Gothenburg Football Association’s talent training sessions in futsal. Here, on my website, I will also focus on futsal in general, but also about the coaching behind the sport.

Hopefully, I have something more interesting in futsal that I can reveal later on here on my website, but the one who is waiting for something good …

Here we go! 

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Sadly, Sweden's European Championship dreams was shattered even before the qualifying was over.

Sadly, Sweden’s European Championship dreams was shattered even before the qualifying was over.

Those of you who follow my blog may have noticed my increasingly clear interest in futsal. It is a very interesting sport from a coach perspective as well as from a spectator point of view. This post will be about futsal, namely the Swedish men’s national team’s European Championship qualifier, which started yesterday.

I wrote “started” but could just as well have written “ran out”. For that was how it felt – The qualifiers ended before it could even begin.

European Championship qualifying of futsal is divided into groups of three or four teams, which is devoted to a weekend to play qualifying games in a host city. Sweden found itself in a group with Gibraltar and Montenegro. The group winner would advance to the next qualifying round, known as the Main Round, so in practice, neither team can afford a loss if the European Championship dream is to survive.

Yesterday evening, Sweden began their European Championship qualifiers against Montenegro, a team that the day before won with 8-1 against Gibraltar. Montenegro has a similar ranking as Sweden, so there are two equal countries in futsal, but the scoreboard was anything but fair. The game ended 11-4 to Montenegro, and Sweden’s dream of playing the first championship died after only 40 minutes of effective playing time.

How could it end like this, that a team with the ambition to take themselves all the way to the European Championship, so monumentally failed to reach the goal after just one game?

Sure, the qualifying system is tough and offers little room for error. You can practically be disqualified after a game, which is a big difference from many other sports when it comes to qualifying stages. In football / soccer, you often have the chance to correct your mistake later, but there are fewer qualifying games in futsal and thus less room for slip. Do you have a so-called bad day (although I dislike the term), all your goals can go to hell. It is part of the explanation.

Another explanation is the actual performance itself. Charbel Abraham, the coach, said afterwards that the poor performance stung more than the result. If Sweden lost a tight game against an opponent who is in a similar ranking position it is of course nothing to be disappointed about, but I think everyone reacts about the fact that Sweden so miserably failed with everything they had in mind. 11-4 are large numbers, one of the largest in the (short) Swedish futsal history. Abraham had been quite right that Montenegro is not a good team, but Sweden played poorly.

What was it that Sweden failed with in the game?

Since some time, Charbel Abraham has worked to make Sweden to play “a modern futsal, as they do on the continent”. I have long been a bit skeptical about this. Who says that the way they play futsal in Europe is our way to reach success? It is difficult, if not impossible, to copy another country’s philosophy and just paste it at our business. The best way is to pick several pieces of the cake so that it suits us. I believe that Sweden plays a kind of futsal we do not really feel comfortable with when we play against tougher opponents.

Sweden with Abraham tries to play a futsal where we control the game, with a kind of high press and play with a so-called high risk. It is all right if we have player types for it, but in yesterday’s qualifier, it was clear that we do not have these kind of players. Several of Montenegro’s goals was because we lost the ball in our build-up and they counter attacked. Montenegro could simply lie low in their defense, waiting for mistakes from Sweden and aim for the goal. An “ancient” kind of tactic that Charbel Abraham said “works in the domestic league, but not internationally”. Talk about getting a taste of their his own medicine.

As a coach, I think this: When you’re facing opponents who runs home, you need to create a lot of movement to pull them out of position and play where the space is. Several times was Sweden with the ball, not knowing where they would pass it, because the movement was non-existent. When the players were moving well, they were often reversed! How are they going to do something with the ball if they do not face the opponent’s goal? Another tactic would have been to shoot from distance to lure them out of their positions, but it was also scarce. In the second half, when Sweden desperately tried to catch up, they tested a joker game that did not end well. Has Sweden even practiced on this? A key rule for a coach is to never do anything in the game that you have not even been practicing before, but the players felt lost and desperate in the joker game.

I know that many have been critical to the national team selection, and perhaps rightly so, but I do not believe that Sweden had received a substantially better results with other players. Would we have brought in other players, we should have tested them earlier, not in an important European Championship qualifier. Abraham talked about that he wanted players who knew the tactics and can play according to the idea, the thing is just that it was the wrong tactic… I simply believe that Abraham’s idea needs to be corrected to fit our Swedish players. This is how we achieve success.

Sweden have missed their chance to go to the European Championship. The next championship is the World Cup in 2020. Time to try a new coach perhaps, with new ideas and a coach who can customize the idea for the players at hand? I know that many have talked about to bring foreign influences into Swedish futsal, but the question is whether we can afford it. Even though they invest in Swedish futsal, the development is still going slowly, I’m one of the few hundred who even has attended a futsal coaching course. It says a lot about the quality of the coaching education.

I have nothing against Charbel Abraham, but Swedish futsal must evaluate the work so far and see if it really is the right path we should go to reach success.

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At the moment, I am without a coach job (if anyone has an interesting offer, just get in touch), but that does not mean in any way that I’ve been lazy. As a football / soccer coach, you rarely have time to improve yourself or have the space for your own field studies, so I try to use the time I have to educate myself in areas I find interesting.

One area that has interested me for a long time is futsal, a kind of indoor version of football / soccer (which not in any way be associated with that felt ball and tough tackles in slatted chairs). One of the biggest reasons why I have become curious about futsal is that it in many ways removes the things I dislike about football / soccer. More time with the ball per player, no long balls, effective playing time, timeouts allowed for coaches, fluid positions, focus on skill and understanding of the game … Yes, the list runs long and I have not even begun to write about how much fun the sport is to watch.

The other night IFK Uddevalla played against IFK Gothenburg in the Swedish top league, the SFL. They drew 0-0, which apparently was the first time in history that a futsal game ended 0-0 in Sweden. That alone says a lot about how many goals there is in futsal.

To satisfy my curiosity, I went on a course for futsal coaches on Saturday with the Swedish Football Association. Today’s supervisor was Lars Ternström, with dual championships as a coach on his resume as futsal coach of IFK Göteborg Futsal. We were a motley crew of about 10 students who wanted to take us of one of Sweden’s relatively new sports.

In South America, futsal began as a response to the lack of space that existed in the cities, where there simply was not room for large football / soccer pitches. Instead of abandoning playing football / soccer completely, futsal was created, a variant of indoor football / soccer, where the games are played five against five (including goalkeepers) on a surface the size of a handball court. Futsal has been around since the 30’s, but in Sweden, the sport is still relatively new, and our men’s national team (we have no national teams for women yet) have not yet managed to qualify for either the World Cup or European Championship. However, it is the fastest growing sport in the country right now, with about 140 000 licensed players. This compared to ice hockey that has about 64 000 players who are licensed.

It is, as I imagine it was for floorball’s relation to ice hockey, easy to bundle futsal and football / soccer together. It is easy to believe that it is “the same sport, but indoors instead of outdoors” but the differences between sports are striking. Almost as to the degree that I would say that futsal has more in common with sports like basketball and handball than football / soccer.

If we start with the similarities, the feet are main center of attention here. Just like in football / soccer, I pass and shoot with my feet, but that’s about where the similarity ends.

For example, you use much more sole in futsal than you do in football / soccer. There is even a direct necessity to control the ball with the sole in a sensible way. The ball has its own history. It is smaller than a standard football and has a moderate bounce. It feels heavier and is therefore more suited to a game via the ground, the long ball is virtually non-existent in futsal.

There is, because of the size of the court, of course, a difference between the number of practitioners at the same time (five players on each team including the goalkeeper), but there are free substitutions in futsal, unlike football / soccer. The coaches also have timeouts that they can use during a game. When the ball crosses the long side, it is not even throw in, but a play in with the feet.

With this in mind, what did I want to get out of the day that I could pass on to my football / soccer?

One idea I had was if it was possible to use futsal instead of practicing too much at the gym during the winter months. In Sweden, we have a long winter and pre-season training traditionally has contained very little training with the ball. Futsal could be a response to this while developing the individual technical skills and game understanding. Happily, futsal is an interesting complement to this type of gym training, but I much more than that with me from this education day.

One thing that was striking to me is how different the individual movement pattern is in futsal versus football / soccer. In football / soccer, it is normal to follow up a pass with “run with the ball” or go into a new space to be a playable option. In futsal, it is more normal to “back” from the original position and thus rotate with another player. The starting positions are not as important in futsal as there are in football / soccer, the players almost seamlessly switch roles with each other for what is best in the situation. A back can in the next stage become a forward and vice versa.

This makes the players more involved in the game than in football / soccer, but also places greater demands. You cannot sneak cheat in the defense in futsal, the team loses 20% of its total team effort when a player does not defend. Same thing in the attacking game, the team cannot afford to have bad passing players when it comes to attacking. All players are needed in the defense as well as in the attack.

In my head, I thought it was much more skills and less tactics in futsal compared to football / soccer, but oh how wrong I was. The coach’s role is incredibly important in futsal, not only because it is free substitutions and timeouts, but also because it is important to set up the right tactics. Each player is important and needs to have clearly defined roles. Above all, the strategy at set pieces is crucial. To just “shoot the ball” is a guarantee of a conceding a goal, so this needs to be chosen carefully by the coach.

Finally, I had not anticipated that it would be so tough physically to play futsal. Tackling is strictly prohibited, but it does not mean that players should be lazy. The fact that there are so few players on each team, each individual takes up much more space than they do on a football / soccer pitch. In futsal, small teams game is a constant, which is very demanding. Free substitutions are thus understandable. It’s about constantly being in motion to help your teammates. I would not call myself out of shape, but I got sore muscles after Saturday’s practice. That says a lot.

In sum, it was a rewarding education with a good instructor, but the question remains – What is the next step for futsal?

Obviously, there is a breeding ground of many players, but can the media attention increase? I doubt that futsal will outrank football / soccer or ice hockey, but to be the third largest sport in the future should not be impossible. It’s fun to watch, warmer than going to watch football / soccer outdoors, you get closer to the game … All the possibilities are there.

For me personally, now that I’ve got a official futsal coach eduaction, I would enjoy to one day coach a futsal team. I think there are many intriguing similarities (and differences) between football / soccer and futsal that would be interesting to explore in my coaching and leadership.

Futsal may only be in its early stages here in Sweden, therefore it will be exciting to see what the future