Futsal is a sport enjoyed by millions of children across the world. Some of those will go on to become the stars of the sport but it has also produced some of the greatest players in the history of football, who credit futsal with being key to their development.
“[Futsal] really helped me become who I am today.” Was 5-time FIFA World Player of the Year Messi view on the game. Portugal and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo commented on the importance of futsal to his success; “If it wasn’t for Futsal, I would definitely not be the player I am today.”
With futsal playing such a crucial role in the life of many of the world’s top football players, it is no surprise that those with the responsibility of developing the 11-a-side game’s next generation are interested in how futsal can help them.
Until recently there hasn’t been much research done into how futsal helps develops the skills needed for football but this is beginning to change. Luca Oppici, a PHD candidate from Australia, has recently completed a study into this that was funded by UEFA.
His results have provided evidence to support the strong anecdotal observations of futsal’s benefit for football players. He will come to England to discuss his study for the first time at the Futsal Insights Seminar taking place in Manchester on the 15th July. Here we get his opinions on research in futsal and being a speaker at the seminar.What lead you into selecting the sport of futsal for your research topic?
I would say a mix of personal interest and a lack of scientific evidence on the topic that needed new studies. I have played football for 15 years and I have always been interested in the best practices that lead to performance improvement. I had never heard of futsal before 2013, and when one of my tutors talked about the possibility of a PhD in ‘futsal for football’ something clicked in my mind.
I started looking for videos and information about futsal, and the game intensity, players’ technical ability were astonishing. I always played full back and as I was watching futsal videos I thought “I wish I played futsal before playing football…” I thought kids could benefit from futsal and I wanted to find more.The ‘futsal for football’ debate is on-going around the world but none more so than in England right now – what can we expect from your presentation?
The ‘futsal for football’ topic is creating interest around the world but scientific evidence is lacking. I will present the state of the art in the research in this topic, and I will present three studies from my PhD that directly address whether futsal could be beneficial for football. The presentations will be focused on the technical and decision making aspects of performance.How has your research study been received by UEFA – do you see it influencing their discussions amongst technical study groups?
I presented the results of one of my studies, which was commissioned by UEFA, to UEFA last year. The feedback from the committee was positive, and I think the results of my study could influence the discussion amongst the study groups. However, I do not have any proof of that but I am confident that UEFA sooner or later will seriously consider the potential role of futsal for football.Where is academic futsal research globally right now? Are we likely to see more studies of this nature going forward and do you have any further research planned yourself?
Scientific studies on futsal are increasing in number. Thirty six articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals in 2016, compare to an average of 10 articles in previous years. Futsal is and can be studied from different angles, and being such an intense exercise that requires quick decisions could be a good framework for studies on human performance.
As such, I believe the global interest and number of studies on futsal will keep increasing. The ‘futsal for football’ topic requires a multidisciplinary approach that could be difficult to examine in short term; however, I hope more studies will focus on this exciting topic in the future. I will certainly study this topic in the future. I am currently writing a thesis, but I’m looking to start a new project in 2018, potentially a large-scale study to directly examine the impact of futsal in kids’ performance.What are you looking forward to about Futsal Insights and speaking in Manchester?
I am very excited to come to Manchester to present my project to a broad audience. I’m looking forward to receive feedback, comments and suggestions on my studies to further improve future research. Also, I’d love to discuss how the results of my study can influence football practice.
Luca Oppici will be joined by other leading experts at the Futsal Insights Seminar in Manchester on Saturday 15th July. Tickets are available for just £30 and include free entrance to a practical session the following morning. For more info and to purchase tickets go to FutsalInsights.com