The enormous popularity of football translates into children playing the game all around the world on whatever surface and regardless of the number of players available. Over the course of time, countless variations of football have been developed.
Futsal and beach soccer are the other two football modalities that have been endorsed by FIFA, acknowledging their rapid growth and worldwide popularity, in particular amongst children.
Futsal can be played both indoor and outdoor on flat, smooth and non-abrasive surfaces. For national competitions, even artificial turf can be permitted. The main difference to other small-sided football games is the ball. It is smaller and has less bounce than a regular football.
As outlined earlier, small-sided football has a benefi cial impact on the number of ball contacts for every child compared to 11-a-side football. When playing futsal, this impact is further intensified. Studies have shown that the low-bounce futsal ball – when used on a proper futsal surface – facilitates ball control and accurate passing. Kids can keep the ball in play more easily, which results in a higher number of ball contacts, quicker transitions between defence and attack and more attempts on goal.
Simplified ball control makes the kids feel more confident and enhances their creativity on the pitch. At the same time, kids tend to be less afraid of the futsal ball due to the lower bounce.
If children are thinking of a potential future in football, futsal offers an excellent preparation for youngsters. As a futsal ball is heavier than a normal football, certain proportionality can be kept with the game on a large field when it comes to the efforts required for passing and shooting.
For children under the age of 12, a futsal ball of size 3 is recommended, however the availability of this type of ball is still very limited.
But even without this particular futsal ball, the game remains accessible as it can be practised in a variety of pre-existing facilities in communities, schools, universities and sports centres, which are otherwise used for basketball or handball.
Given its indoor nature, futsal is particularly suited to geographical regions where heavy rain, strong wind or snowfall frequently hamper the outdoor game. Installing and maintaining natural or artificial turf pitches might be diffi cult and expensive in these parts of the world. The safe indoor environment might also offer substantially more opportunities for boys and girls to join in and increase accessibility for various religious groups.
As the name itself insinuates, beach soccer is played on sandy surfaces. However, its practice is not limited to natural beaches. In numerous countries, beach soccer is played on artifi cially built pitches, even indoors.
Similar to other forms of small-sided football, beach soccer offers more possibilities for players to touch and play the ball as a result of the reduced size of the pitch and the smaller number of players. Moreover, beach soccer can offer an exciting alternative to vary the ordinary football activities of children. The soft and uneven playing surface makes it much more challenging to dribble, pass or shoot on goal, and players require good balance and coordination to perform any technical action, no matter whether with or without the ball.
Hence, beach soccer has proven to be very benefi cial for players’ coordination skills as well as the reaction speed of the growing youngsters, as the trajectory of the ball is less predictable on sand. These abilities facilitate the future acquisition of technical skills, in whatever form of football.
At the same time, kids appreciate the fact that it is less painful to fall on sand than on harder surfaces, and even if they are not used to it, they start to feel confident very quickly. In addition, very little equipment is needed to play beach soccer as, in accordance with the Laws of the Game, it is played barefoot.
Furthermore, especially in countries with long coastlines or on small and sandy islands where football facilities are limited, beach soccer offers an attractive alternative as infrastructure requirements are minimal.
Both futsal and beach soccer can be considered to be complementary to football as they simply widen the range of choice. In circumstances where space or infrastructure is limited, weather conditions are not favourable or long summer and winter breaks interrupt the football activity, the two modalities offer new opportunities for kids to play the game.