I remember the first time I played futsal. I joined an adult league for exercise and fun, and thought trying indoor soccer would be a good idea. Watching the Continental Indoor Soccer League allowed me to know, more or less, what to expect.
What I experienced was completely different than what I had in mind. Even though it was a casual league with rudimentary tactics, the speed and intensity of the game meant I got a workout I never expected. And it was an absolute blast to play.
In the U.S., we think of futsal as one of two things. For one, it is the game our kids play between fall and spring soccer seasons. On the other hand, it is the type of soccer that made Christian Pulisic so good. Unsurprisingly, the game has a much deeper history and infrastructure than that.
Veteran journalist Jamie Fahey tries to summarize the sport in his new book, Futsal. Drawing from his own experiences in the game plus unparalleled interviews, Fahey offers readers a glimpse into a game revolutionizing the game of soccer.
Jamie Fahey’s Futsal book and the fast-paced sport
When looking at the table of contents, the book seems structured in a traditional way. Like many books, there is an element of personal narrative. Following that is a history lesson before a world overview. Instead, the book veers from perspective to perspective with little transition, almost as if it is comprised a series of articles on the subject. We begin with Fahey establishing his credentials. This includes growing up playing soccer in the streets of his neighborhood in small teams. His stories of wildly careening balls connects him to the game. Many play a version of futsal without even realizing it.
We move to the history of the sport. Admittedly, this was a confusing part. With multiple claims to authentic futsal, it is hard to track which clubs and movements represented which. At a few points, I could not follow countries’ achievements at different tournaments, but that may have been on the reviewer, and not the author. We then proceed into a tactics discussion that also veers into stories about the coaches and players who shaped futsal. The book concludes with reviews of where futsal is around the world, including the “coming nations” of the U.S. and France.
One critique I hinted at above what how hard it is to summarize the book because it changes so quickly. For example, the chapter on Brazil (the true parent of the sport) ends with a discussion of the Oriundi. In both soccer and futsal, this is a major issue, particularly in Italy’s history. For reference, this is players born in other countries but used their parentage to declare for a different nationality. While it makes sense to include a mention of Brazil (in a sense) exporting players to other countries, the topic is probably important enough for its own chapter or focus, especially most of the conversation is on Italy’s futsal culture.
Formatting tells a story
At first, the rapid transitions bothered me at first. Then, realized it was kind of appropriate. Futsal is a game for quick thinking and quick reacting. After all, the keeper in futsal only has 4 seconds to possess the ball before passing! The book unintentionally or intentionally mirrors the game with the switching from topic to topic. Consequently, it ties together to create something interesting.
And this book is interesting. I found myself struggling to put it down at times because of how well Fahey knows futsal. He can dial up some of the biggest names in soccer and futsal and get their thoughts on the game, including Roberto Martinez. His global view also presents a sport that is mature in many places (Portugal, Brazil, Russia) but emerging in unexpected places (England). As someone with passing knowledge of futsal and its importance to the world game, this book was eye opening. At under 300 pages, it is the right size for a solid read to catch up on why you need to pay attention to futsal now.
Futsal: The Indoor Game That Is Revolutionizing World Soccer is available via Amazon and all fine booksellers.
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