Netherlands - January 13, 2022 11:00Interview with Vic HermansI desire more for futsal than I usually getFutsal Euro ’22: FIFA Futsal Returns Home

Interview by Steve Harris - Futsal Japan

Cover photo credit: KNVB (Vic Hermans displays the name of the defending champion at the Futsal Euro official draw)

Precursor to the Futsal Euro
The ’22 Futsal Euro marks the 40th anniversary of the unofficial start of international futsal competition in Europe. Four decades earlier, in Apr. 1982, the national teams of the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Italy assembled in Leiden for a first ever Four Nations Cup in Holland. The venue was Groenoord Hall, an arena that has since been demolished, and hosted flashy events such as concerts by the likes of Queen, Def Leppard, The Police and U2. Thus was born the precursor to the UEFA Futsal Championship, which would officially debut 14 years later in 1996. But the tournament would turn out to be more than just a first step in organized futsal competition in the continent.

Dutch captain Vic Hermans recalls, “The Netherlands’ very first international was a friendly against Belgium in 1977, for which I was not present. My international debut came the following year, in 1978 (note: NED 5-4 BEL on Feb. 24, 1978, at Hellevoetsluis, Netherlands). Since Holland had only been playing Belgium every year since 1977, the KNVB decided to start sending out invitations to other European countries in 1982. Out of the many approached, only Spain and Italy responded. That started the Four Nations Cup, the first edition of which was held in the Netherlands. The competition was subsequently moved to each of the other countries. It was quite nice.”

No standardized laws of the game existed at the time – nor was the use of the word futsal involved in any way. Spain’s futbol sala was based on the laws of the Brazil-based FIFUSA (Federação Internacional de Futbol de Salão), Italy practiced its own unique calcetto, and though Holland and Belgium both called their version of the indoor game zaalvoetbal, even they could not completely agree on the rules. Hermans recalls the four-nation competition undergoing rule changes in each host country. “In the Netherlands, we used a normal size-5 football on a 20-by-40-meter pitch. There was no limit on fouling and each half was 25 minutes with a running clock. You’d run to get the ball when losing and let it go out when winning (laughs). But the Dutch game was very clean: no sliding or physical contact. That’s where we had to compromise.”

Vic Hermans as Holland captain in action against Belgium in the early ‘80s (Photo credit: Vic Hermans)

The NCRV Mini-Football Show
The KNVB’s desire to extend the international reach of zaalvoetbal was not a coincidence. “At the time, there was a hugely popular futsal TV program called ‘NCRV Mini-voetbal Show.’ This made Dutch indoor football teams the rage and it also included games involving old football stars such as Jimmy Greaves, Nobby Stiles, and Wolfgang Overath. It was a huge breakthrough for indoor football because there would be 10,000 spectators present for each game and many watching on TV, so everybody suddenly wanted to play the game. I was chosen because I had been playing both indoor and outdoor.” “Mini-voetball Show” had a raucous and festive atmosphere befitting a Queen concert: on a 40x20 pitch inside of a velodrome, games would begin with all ten starting players lining up on the touch line to await the game ball to be dropped from a transparent tube overhead. Down came the ball, the players sprinted onto the pitch, and it was game on.
To maximize the entertainment value, the Dutch game for TV included features such as an extended area of play behind the goals, two holes in the back of the net to allow for goals to be scored from behind, two points for goals by headers, and a penalty awarded for every four corner kicks. “So the scores would be like 16-8 – very high scoring games. That’s what the people liked. And players from other countries came to participate: Belgium, Germany, Austria, England, France.” Holland’s mini-football show mirrored the same arena-football craze seen in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) in the USA, off-season events for big-name clubs such as hallenfussball in Germany, and the National Daily Express 5-A-Side Competition in England.

The large crowds attracted by this brand of arena football and the parallel spread of the FIFUSA game explain why FIFA started to lay the groundwork for officially overseeing indoor soccer from the mid-‘80s. Since the non-bouncing size-3 ball and static nature of FIFUSA futsal found no resonance in Zurich, FIFA decided that the razzle-dazzle of the Dutch, American, German, and English versions offered greater appeal for the global football family. The only remaining question was whether or not to use dasher boards. The anti-dasher board faction won the argument and the consequent set of rules piloted were essentially the same as those used for the 1982 Four Nations Cup in Leiden: i.e., zaalvoetbal rules without “Mini-voetbal Show” gimmicks such as holes in the back of the net and the extended playing area. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that the prototype for ver. 1 of FIFA’s Futsal Laws of the Game were first implemented in Leiden in 1982.

Left photo: “The Mini-voetbal Show” legend Frans Bouman scores through the back-hole in the goal. - Center photo: George Best in action for Manchester United against Spurs at the Daily Express 5-A-Side Final - Right photo: Rudi Voeller celebrates scoring for Werder Bremen at a winter hallenfussball tournament - see the videos at the bottom of the page!

“Futsal Will Be FIFA’s Second Main Sport”
The stage was set: FIFA codified Dutch arena football into “Laws of the Game for Five-a-Side Football,” a rulebook published in Jun. 1988 and applied at the 1st FIFA World Championship for Five-a-Side Football in 1989 in – where else? – the Netherlands. “After the ’89 tournament, I will never forget what Sepp Blatter (FIFA General Secretary at the time) told me. He said, ‘Vic, futsal will be FIFA’s second main football sport.’ Well, by the end of 1991, after FIFA held the first Women’s World Cup, he had changed his mind and said that FIFA would be promoting the women’s game! For me, that was an ominous omen…” Though Blatter’s about-face presaged FIFA’s diminished commitment to the sport, futsal was actually evolving toward a level of greatness that would flower gloriously in the 1996 World Championship.
Though the first two FIFA World Championships in 1989 and 1992 were well received, FIFA’s initial version of the game did not earn complete buy-in from the many stakeholders who developed the FIFUSA version of the sport for decades. After FIFA settled internal squabbles about whether or not to use dasher boards in producing the first set of rules, it next worked feverishly behind the scenes to integrate into the new world game the numerous countries that had been playing by the FIFUSA rules. The result was a set of rule compromises that was complete by 1994: Dutch zaalvoetbal was infused with key FIFUSA principles to encourage skills, control, and a more tightly organized game: a five-foul limit, a stopping clock, a size-4 ball with less bounce. This resulted in more dazzling individual skills and well-orchestrated tactics, while also adding infinitely more value to each second on the clock.

Vic’s impression of the change in the game is lukewarm: “I never liked the smaller ball but was willing to accept the limit on fouls. My problem has always been the tolerance of physical contact. Physical contact destroys the game.” Meanwhile, futsal ver. 2.0 resulted in the magnificent 1996 World Championship, which climaxed with an epic final between Brazil and Spain, the protagonists all former students of the FIFUSA game. Zaalvoetbal with FIFUSA characteristics? Even FIFUSA’s copyrighted term for the sport that FIFA had long resisted was incorporated into the official event name: “3rd FIFA Futsal World Championship.”

Hermans receives his MVP trophy at the 1989 FIFA World Championship from then FIFA President Joao Havelange (Photo credit: Vic Hermans official website)

Accomplishments, Adversity and an Ideal Vision for Futsal
Vic’s multiple-decade career as a pioneer globetrotting coach was launched by his MVP performance at the 1989 FIFA inaugural World Championship, but for every accomplishment along the way there has been frustration. “’The Mini-zaalvoetbal Show’ continued for ten years but was then stopped because of hooligans coming into the stadium and fighting. Unbelievable because it was the best promotion for futsal we could have asked for.” Looking back on the 4-nation “class of 1982,” he notes the contrasting fates of the respective countries. “Spain grew with the game, but Holland and Belgium did not, primarily because we never designed the national team program to demand futsal-only players. To this day, we still have Dutch futsal internationals who are burdened with weekend football commitments.”
Hermans has seen both heaven and hell. “I’ve found that when you work with people who give you what you need, you can reach a very high level. Iran gave me everything and I won in 2000 the AFC Championship with them. And though I also had an amazing experience in Thailand, a year later in Indonesia I was not able to get 100% of what I needed for development of the sport there. When I went to work for Hong Kong before the 1992 World Cup, they said there would be international games but there were none – only matches with local teams. In 1996, I was hired by Malaysia, selected a team in Kuala Lumpur, and then arrived at the World Cup in Spain to find that I had been sent a different group of players. But you move on… I had assumed that the sport would be included in the Olympics, but that did not happen either. I’m used to this: I desire more for futsal than I usually get.” His current project is to oversee the development of a national team program in the Philippines that enables the Southeast Asian country to return to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competitions. At the age of 68, he has a three-year contract as technical director.

So what is Vic’s vision of an ideal world for futsal? What would he do if he had the power of god and could change things tomorrow? “I would mandate that 15% of the budget that FIFA allots to countries be devoted to the development of futsal. Each member association should have its own futsal director who assures that the funds are used correctly. If FIFA determines that the member association does not follow this mandate, they should be made to forfeit their 15%. Next, we need a futsal department inside of FIFA to make the right decisions for the game. And then futsal should be made an Olympic sport. They say that there is now too much football in the Summer Olympics, so simply include it in the Winter Olympics.”

Vic meets the press in the Philippines (Photo credit: Phil Star)

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