How to Play Futsal

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 What You Need to Know

  1. Futsal is a massively-popular variation of association football. It's played indoors with five players on each team
  2. Standard matches are 40 minutes long, split into two equal halves. The pitch is much smaller than normal football and the ball is also smaller and heavier
  3. A team may have nine substitute and make as many changes as they want, so long as they only ever have five players on the pitch at any one time
  4. Apart from the goalkeeper, there are no fixed positions in futsal, with players helping out in defence and attack
  5. Unlike in football, there is no offside rule in futsal; players can get as close to the goal as they want
  6. One other stand-out rule is the presence of blue cards. A player is given a blue card if they commit more than five fouls. They have to leave the pitch but can be replaced by a substitute
  7. Futsal is fast, furious and big competitions in particular are perfect for sports betting

What is futsal?

Futsal is a variety of football that is played indoors between two teams of five players. The game has its roots in South America and dates back to the 1930s. Thanks to the fact it's easy to play, it can be played in any weather and it's also fast and exciting, it's one of the most popular sports on the planet, both among players and spectators.

The sport is becoming increasingly popular outside of South America, partly due to football associations are wising up to how useful it is for developing skills that can be transferred to 11-a-side football.

The Pitch and Ball

A futsal pitch needs to be made up of a hard surface, whether it's wood or another material.

There is no global standard when it comes to pitch size. A pitch can be anything between 25 and 42 metres long and 17 to 27 metres wide, so long as the length is greater than the width. That said, the international 'standard' size is 40 metres by 20 metres.

At each end, in front of each goal, a penalty area needs to be marked out. This should have a radius of six metres from the goal line. Additionally, two penalty spots need to be marked out. The first one should be six metres from goal, aligned with the centre of the net. Penalty kicks will be taken from here if a player commits a foul inside the penalty area. A second penalty spot also needs to be marked 10 metres from the goal line. It is from here that penalties will be taken if a player commits his team's sixth foul in the penalty area (see rules below).

Futsal goals do, however, need to be a certain size. Modelled on handball goals, they need to be three metres wide, with the crossbar two metres above the ground. A goal also need to be fitted with a net.

As for the ball, this needs to be a standard Size 4 football. The balls used for the sport are smaller and heavier than those used in standard football and are designed to bounce less.

Teams and Positions

In futsal, there are five players on each team, one of which is the designated goalkeeper. In addition to this, a team may have as many as nine substitutes and can make unlimited substitutions throughout the match. In fact, teams can make changes even when the ball is in play, though a player must come off the pitch before a substitute comes on.

So long as they have a designated goalkeeper, a team can set themselves up however they like, with no compulsory positions. In fact, most players will be required to help out in all parts of the pitch and both attack and defend. That said, a lot of the time, players will be given fixed positions to begin with. Positions include:

  • The Goalkeeper: This is the only real specialised position in futsal. Just as with normal football, the goalkeeper's job is to guard his team's goal and try and stop the opponents from scoring. Goalies are the only players on the pitch who can use their hands and arms, though they are only allowed to do so inside their own penalty areas. Under the rules, goalkeepers must wear different coloured shirts to the rest of their teammates and, while gloves and elbow pads aren't compulsory, most do choose to wear them.
  • Defender: Defenders are tasked with helping the goalkeeper stop the opponents from scoring. They will usually stay in their own half, only going forward to help with an attack if it is safe to do so. Teams may play with two defenders or just one defensive specialist depending on how adventurous they choose to be.
  • Winger: Also known as a wing, a winger will cover one side of the pitch, constantly moving backwards and forwards along the flank to both defend and attack. The position requires high levels of stamina and a mixture of skills.
  • Pivot: Unlike in normal football, in futsal there are no true strikers Instead, pivots are the most advanced players on the pitch and it is they who are mainly responsible for scoring their team's goals. At the same time, however, a pivot will be required to help out with defensive duties throughout the match.
  • Universal: Again, in most cases, teams will not have any specialist players on the pitch. Many players and what's known as universals, meaning they switch between attack, defence and wing play.

The Objective and Scoring Goals

Futsal is a very simple game. The objective is simply to score more goals than the other team. A standard match needs to be made up of two equal period of 20 minutes, with a break of 15 minutes between the two.

In some competitions, draws are permitted, but in others there needs to be a winner. So, if the scores are level after the normal 40 minutes, two periods of extra time, composed of five minutes each, will be played. If the scores are still tied, a penalty shootout will follow.

Games are started with a standard kick-off, with the team starting determined by a toss of a coin. At the kick off, the ball needs to move forward and a goal cannot be scored directly from the kick-off.

The Rules of Futsal

Even though it is a simple sport, futsal is governed by strict rules, some of which will be familiar to anyone who follows football or who has played five-a-side. Here is a brief overview of some of the main rules:

  • Fouls and Misconduct: A player may not intentionally foul an opponent. Just as with football, fouls include kicking or attempting to kick another player, pushing, striking, tripping, holding or charging an opponent from behind. Note that, unlike outdoor football, sliding tackles are not allowed. For fouls committed outside of the penalty area, an indirect free kick is awarded from the spot where the infringement was committed. If a foul is committed in the penalty area, however, a penalty will be awarded and taken from the main penalty spot.
  • Restarting Play: If a ball goes out of play, either by crossing the sideline or the goal line, a throw-in is awarded, with the team that touched the ball last losing possession. Throw ins need to be taken within five seconds (the referee will usually count down with his hand in the air) and, similarly, the goalkeeper also has five seconds to get the ball back into play after making a save. If a player puts the ball behind his own goal line, the opposing team are awarded a corner and, again, this needs to be taken within five seconds. Opponents need to be five metres from the ball when a corner is being taken and a player can score directly from a corner kick. If a goal is scored, the conceding team restart play with a kick-off from the centre of the pitch.
  • Possession: Once the goalkeeper has released the ball, his team has 15 seconds to get it past the half-way line. If they fail to do so, the opposing team wins possession and is awarded a throw-in.
  • Yellow and Red Cards: Just as with normal football, referees can punish players by giving them yellow or red cards. Yellow cards are used to caution players for repeated infringements or for a single serious foul. Two yellow cards equal one red card and the player is dismissed from the pitch. A player can even get a straight red card for a particularly bad offence, such as violent conduct. If a player is given a red card, they need to leave the pitch, though a replacement can be sent on after two minutes.
  • Blue Cards: One thing that makes futsal very different to football is the use of blue cards. These are given to a player after they commit their fifth foul of a single match. Upon being shown a blue card, this player must leave the pitch and must stay off for the rest of the game, though he can be immediately replaced by a teammate.
  • Cumulative Fouls: A team can make five fouls between them in each half of a match. After they go over this, a direct free kick from the second penalty spot will be awarded for every subsequent infringement of the rules.

Getting Started

Futsal is very easy to play and so getting started is easy to do. All you need is an indoor court, nine other players and a ball. Most leisure centres across the UK will let you hire out a sports hall, though these may be marked out for five-a-side football rather than futsal and the goals might not be the right size. Try and find a court that's marked out for handball instead.

Alternatively, if you really want to get involved, think about joining a team. If you are at school or university, either join an existing team or, if there isn't one, set one up yourself. Additionally, if you're not a student, visit the Futsal UK website and find a team local to you

Following the Sport and Betting on Futsal 

Thanks to the ongoing boom in live sport, both on TV and online, it's never been easier to follow futsal and not just play it. Right through the year, major tournaments are held across the globe, both those featuring international teams as well as top competitions for club sides.

Some of the biggest tournaments in futsal include the Mediterranean Futsal Cup, the Grand Prix de Futsal and, most importantly of all, the AMF World Futsal Championships and the FIFA Futsal World Cup. A simple online search will help you find out more about these competitions, and more, plus you'll be able to find out how you can watch the action from the comfort of your own home, or even get tickets to watch some of the game's finest players in action for yourself.

As well as it being easier to follow futsal, it's also become increasingly easier to have a flutter on the action. Above all, some of the biggest sports betting sites now offer a variety of betting markets on the game, especially during major tournaments. To join in the fun, make use of this guide to the best sports betting sites out there right now and sign up today for some incredible introductory offers, including cashback on your first few flutters. 


Further Reading

  • Futsal UK oversees the development of the sport across Britain and its website tells you everything you need to know about the game:
  • If playing is not your thing, consider betting on futsal. The game is fast, exciting and perfect for having a flutter on. 

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