India had its share of ups and downs in the game of Cricket, had great time in Hockey once, had couple of players in Tennis and Badminton, but do we know that India has never played in a Football World Cup, like ever? Ever wondered why a nation of billion plus ranks at 160th position in FIFA world rankings much lower than a war torn Afghanistan or Syria?
Enter Futsal !
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What is Futsal? Futsal is a miniature version of football game created to beat the limitations of having bigger playground and bigger playing group, which forms a large barrier in urban landscapes like that in India. Designed originally to be played in the space available for basketball courts as an Indoor football, it has now gained official FIFA sanction and is becoming a rage.
I have always wondered what factors come into play in making a game popular in India. Looking around, I have found that given the resource shortage, the popular games played by Indian kids need to have minimum infrastructure. Hence a game like cricket with a single bat and ball has eventually overtaken erstwhile popular hockey which required tools for all the players. Thats where I wondered why football which requires much lesser, hasn’t become popular in India.
It hardly requires a single ball and a bunch of enthusiastic kids running around and still in a nation of billion plus, we hardly hear any mention of a football player other than, once in a decade, Baichungs. Why does a nation of billion lag at 160th rank?
Though there are many pessimists who attribute this to the Indian physiques lacking the lung power required to withstand the rigors of running around the field for close to 1 and half hour, I felt the reason is the vast infrastructure required for playing a football game which, unlike cricket, cannot be easily fit on our gallis or smaller parks.
With Futsal, our urban kids playing in cramped outdoors now have a new avenue. Futsal, essentially is played by 5 member team in a field half the size of regular football field fits into our definition of urban game good enough to fit into a small park or even on rooftop of a decent apartment building. This now suddenly opens up new possibilities of football becoming popular in our urban arena and eventually spread into the rurals which are blessed with much wider spaces..
Further Futsal fits perfectly into the bracket for evening viewing much akin to our T20s and kabaddi pro leagues and am sure makes for a much desired change from the regular cricket T20s. Who knows in a few years this makes the game so popular that we can start dreaming of getting into professional football qualifiers and league games which has evaded us for over a century.
And with Figo’s arrival in India to explore possibilities of starting his own football academy (and if things go as expected) that day won’t be far when Futsal is the next big thing in India too.