Here’s a guest post, prepared by Isabelle Riley from Aussie Indoor Sports. This article gives a brief history of Futsal in Australia, along with a gentle nudge to potential players in New Zealand. It’s timely, given the huge push NZ Football is currently giving to Futsal and the strong uptake for the sport here, particularly in schools.
Indoor soccer, or Futsal as it is commonly known, has been growing in popularity over the past few years, especially down in the southern hemisphere.
Australia seems particularly taken with the sport, with indoor soccer centres popping up all over the country. The game is actually relatively new to Australia, being first introduced by Dawn Gilligan in 1971 when the country experienced a particularly wet winter, rendering the outdoor playing fields unusable. The first game was played in Sydney at the Revesby YMCA, where it soon spread to other YMCA’s and now centres across the country.
The sport peaked during the 80’s due to it being televised, leading to the 1988 FIFUSA World Cup which was held in Melbourne, and was subsequently taken over by FIFA in 1989. Australia participated in every world cup until 2008, and it is estimated that there are over 140,000 players throughout the country.
But what makes this sport so popular in Australia? Well first of all, due to the extreme weather conditions often experienced, harsh heat in the summer and constant rain in the winter, indoor soccer is a great solution when the weather just won’t cooperate with your game schedule. It has also developed enough over the years to have a strong competitive presence with the help of Aussie Indoor Sports, lots of teams and a rise in popularity means lots of healthy competition. There are also commonly teams for females and males, unlike the small portion of female teams in AFL or NFL.
What NZ seems to struggle with in adopting Futsal as a popular sport, is the fact that the love of Rugby runs deep and the weather is just too good to get you indoors most of the year. With comparatively mild summers, you don’t need to head indoors. Winters however are another story, especially in the south where snow is not uncommon. During this time, NZ would benefit from a change of perspective, drop the rugby ball and get inside your local sporting centre and ask to reserve it for regular Futsal training.
With a little communication, you may even discover a whole bunch of other teams in your surrounding area. It seems that awareness of the sport is what stops NZ from taking the sport on board wholeheartedly, so with a little exposure and enthusiasm, NZ could soon be battling Australia for a spot on the world Futsal stage.