Futsal – The Adaptation Game

I have futsal on the mind.

A few passages from Alex Bellos’ book – Futebol The Brazilian Way of Life reminded me how futsal is a game of adaptation.

It’s manner of play certainly – the constant dribbles with the sole. Toe pokes to shoot, all marks of players adapting to futsal’s confined space. But this thread of adaptation exists in futsal’s origins too.

Alex Bellos explains how the challenges of nature and infrastructure created “drawing room” football:

The difficulty of maintaining full-sized grass football pitches in a tropical, developing country – the cost, the climate and the lack of urban space – has led to the sport being adapted to whichever terrain is available. The incessant modification of football is also the result of a society which is not hung up about changing rules.

Futsal also went through some peculiar rule experiments:

In some games, futsal players were not allowed to speak. Any utterance would result in a foul. Fans too, for a short period, were not allowed to make any noise. But the silliest rule stipulated that players were not allowed to play the ball while a hand was touching the floor. This meant that if someone was knocked over, or tripped up, he would avoid using his hand for support – since this would rule him out of play.

Futsal of yesteryear resembles backyard games you’d make up with your boys on a boring summer afternoon. A football version of Calvinball.

Even the most successful futsal region can be seen as an adaptive response to its circumstances.

The northern Brazilian state Ceará, dominated the Brazilian futsal scene for years, based on a lack of top flight, 11-a-side football:

A peculiarity of Brazilian futsal is the dominance of Ceará, a state in the northeast better known for untouched beaches, cowboys, Catholic pilgrims and droughts. It’s capital, Fortaleza, is the only one of Brazil’s eight largest cities that does not have at least two football teams that regularly play in the top division. Perhaps because of this, Ceará has put its energies into Futsal. Ceará is the state with the largest number of victories in futsal’s Brazil Cup. ‘I think futsal fitted us like a glove. The Cearenese is irreverent, he’s not interested in tactical systems, he likes messing about,’ adds Vicente Figueiredo. ‘Here people are more interested in futsal than football. All the big futsal clubs in Brazil always have a Cearenese in the team.’

Reading these few passages, it almost feels like futsal, not football, is Brazil’s national sport. The root elite Brazilian footballers grow from.