Germany - January 29, 2019 11:00Germany reaching for the stars in reportReport courtesy: - Photo courtesy: FIFA/Getty Images

28 Jan 2019

-> Germany set for first-ever FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying campaign
-> The team played its first match as recently as 2016
-> Coach Marcel Loosveld speaks to about their ambitions

Marcel Loosveld is head coach of Germany’s futsal national team. Yet on sitting down with the 56-year-old Dutchman, it quickly becomes apparent that something is not quite right about his tracksuit. The four stars normally emblazoned above the German Football Association (DFB)’s badge are missing.

This is no surprise given that one of football’s most successful nations of all time is only just beginning to write its own history in futsal, the only version of indoor football officially recognised by FIFA. It is understandable that the futsal players are happy to go without the four stars won by their football counterparts – after all, nobody wants to be seen taking credit for others’ achievements. This first-ever FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying campaign for this fledgling national side begins on Monday.

Germany's futsal national team

First international: 5-3 win over England (30 October 2016)
Internationals played: 19
Wins: 5
Draws: 3
Defeats: 11

"We can achieve great things together in futsal," said Loosveld, who was a runner-up in the 1989 FIFA Futsal World Championship with the Netherlands and served as futsal coach for the Dutch Football Association for 13 years, including responsibility for the national team. "When I went for the first meeting in Frankfurt and saw the World Cup trophies there, it certainly made an impression."

Loosveld entered uncharted territory when he took up his current post in 2017. For many years, Germany has been dominated by an entirely different kind of indoor football. From Flensburg in the north to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the south, Germans generally play on pitches surrounded by boards with large goals, resulting in plenty of tussles for the ball against the aforementioned boards. There is also plenty of scope for luck, as the ball stays in play even when the passes are inaccurate.

"I’m not keen [on this kind of indoor football]," said Loosveld. "It’s great for anybody looking to have some fun, but futsal is totally different. So much is different from a tactical point of view." Tactics are at the top of the Dutchman’s list of priorities. "I don’t have anything against indoor football – but we need specialists in futsal. That takes a lot of hard work, as many players initially play futsal as if they were playing football."

With its smaller, less bouncy ball, lack of boards, handball-sized goals and plenty of action, futsal is a sport where technicians come into their own.

A fascination with futsal
The winds of change are slowly starting to blow in Germany. Although there is plenty of scepticism among older players for whom futsal is still new and unfamiliar, the DFB has been encouraging indoor football tournaments across the country to adopt futsal rules. This means that a generation of young players are growing up equating indoor football with futsal – and Germany’s national team is ready to reap the benefits.

"There is plenty of talent out there. It’s important that we discover it and train it up for futsal," said Loosveld, while his captain Timo Heinze, who once played alongside Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels in Bayern Munich’s reserve team, added: "That will really get things moving. I even hope that, in the long term, there are athletes who grow up with futsal and then just play the game the way it is played in Brazil or Spain."

Yet there is still a long way to go, as the footballing giants are still minnows on the futsal pitch. "At the start I wondered what effect that was having on the others, but we didn’t talk about it," said Heinze. Loosveld does not believe that the footballers’ successes place extra pressure on his futsal players. In fact, they benefit from the DFB’s expertise: "The German set-up is the best in the world; I even get messages from colleagues telling me how great it is for futsal," said the coach. "It also helps us win plenty of new fans."

Germany still have a long way to go to reach their first Futsal World Cup. If they successfully navigate the preliminary qualifying round currently underway, they will still have to get through the main round (October 2019) and elite round (spring 2020) before the final six European nations secure their places alongside hosts Lithuania at the finals in late 2020.

Germany in the preliminary round of Futsal World Cup qualifying

Venue: Georgia
Georgia – Germany (Wednesday, 17:30 CET)
Germany – Denmark (Thursday, 14:30 CET)
Israel – Germany (Saturday, 14:30 CET)

Germany’s coach and captain both freely admit that reaching the World Cup finals is still a distant dream for the national team. "If we can get through the first round, that will already be a major success, but we’ll enjoy taking on the challenge," said Loosveld. "When I look at the tactical understanding the players already have after such a short spell of training, it makes me very happy."

Finally, Germany would not be Germany if the head coach did not set some ambitious goals. "By the 2022 Euros, we need to have put in place the structures we need to qualify for European tournaments. It’s a tough target, but a wonderful one. We can be relaxed about setting our sights high. I think it’s a realistic goal too; after all, we’ve done a good job so far."

Posted by Luca Ranocchiari -->
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