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Let’s play futsal

By ANNA MARTELINO Published May 02, 2023 5:00 am

The Philippines is known for its love of basketball. The country is covered with courts so that anybody with a ball can play the game.

Futsal has been very popular in countries similar to the Philippines where football fields are few and far between. Futsal is a football-based game played on a hard court like a basketball court, smaller than a football filed, and mainly indoors. It has similarities to five-a-side football and indoor football. Futsal is played between two teams of five players each, one of whom is the goalkeeper.

One of the main reasons for futsal’s attraction is its quick pace; it could be considered soccer’s younger cousin. If you are a basketball fan, it might be similar to a playing a pickup game. 

Played with five players per team on a hard surface for the duration of 40 minutes, the futsal ball is smaller than a traditional soccer ball and players wear indoor shoes or flats.

Futsal is a fast-paced version of soccer that allows players to get many touches on the ball. Physical contact is discouraged which makes it a great sport for kids as well as adults.

Equal playing court 

“Last year, we piloted a 23U Women’s Futsal League that competed mainly by university teams,” said Kevin Goco, head of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Futsal department. “The best players from that league were invited to form the Philippine Women’s futsal team in two international friendlies played against Guam. It was so successful that we followed it up with a women’s open league in 2023.”

This year, the group launched High 5 Women’s Futsal League, the highest level of Philippine women’s futsal.

Kevin Goco (PFF futsal head), Michelle Rabaya Attwood (Tuloy Foundation marketing officer), Take Suzuki (Tuloy FC technical director), Tetsuya Tsuchida (PFF head of Youth Development), Marlyn Importante (Gawad Kalinga key accounts manager), Vic Hermans (PFF Futsal technical director), Danny Moran (chairman, Henry V. Moran Foundation), Dave Javellana (PFF Grassroots officer), Dhon Lazo (CMORFA general secretary), Rey Ritaga (PFF futsal referee Instructor), Allan Martinez (PFF referee head).

Goco added that one of the goals of the new women’s futsal league is to promote community development. The league is played at the Tuloy Foundation’s Futsal Gym, home of Tuloy FC, an NGO that is famous locally for its youth football and futsal academies. Tuloy FC takes children off of the streets and regularly produces national team players. 

I loved what the people here wanted for the futsal game because they love the game, especially as a means to impact women and the poor.

With High 5 Women’s Futsal League, it’s hoped that more opportunities for play will be provided for underprivileged kids, whom PFF officials hope will become future coaches, mentors, referees, sports marketers and tournament match officials.

“This concept of engaging marginalized communities is very important to me,” added Goco. “In the Philippines, where there is a lot of poverty and every community has an indoor court, futsal can easily touch many lives. I don’t just want to develop futsal players from these communities, I want to also develop the entire futsal ecosystem.”

Girls love the game 

Women’s futsal has been gaining in popularity around the world. In the Philippines the sport is the recognized format of football for girls in the Department of Education (DepEd). This is because women’s futsal has a high participation in the country at both the grassroots and youth levels mainly due to the Palarong Pambansa, the country’s largest national school tournament organized by the DepEd.

Azzurri SC

The league also serves as a scouting platform for the Philippine Women’s National Futsal Team. Futsal coach Vic Hermans spearheaded the organization of the High 5 Women’s League as a means to further identify players for the women’s national team pool.

“I think the Philippines has massive potential in futsal, especially for the women,” said Hermans. “I advised the PFF as early as 2015, when I came to the country as a FIFA consultant, that they should put more focus on developing futsal, especially with the women. A major problem of football development in the Philippines is lack of football infrastructure to cater to 110 million people. So futsal can be an alternative, and it shows with the local take-up of the sport.”

Kick and goal: Futsal is loved by female athletes, shown demonstrating their skills.

Hermans serves as a FIFA Futsal coach, has been living in the Philippines since 2022, but has been working with the PFF extensively since 2019.

“I met wonderful people like Danny Moran, chairman of the Henry V. Moran Foundation (THVMF), and Kevin Goco. Danny is a former national team football player and is a successful businessman. Through his Moran Foundation, he regularly supports the PFF’s futsal program through futsal in schools programs and futsal competitions like this women’s league,” added Hermans. “Kevin was an AFC-funded scholar to the prestigious FIFA Master program, a graduate course where he topped his class as Valedictorian in 2020. I loved what the people here wanted for the futsal game because they love the game, especially as a means to impact women and the poor.”

Organized by the PFF Futsal Department and THVMF, the High 5 Women’s Futsal League brings together eight women’s futsal clubs from diverse backgrounds. Tuloy FC, Gawad Kaling FC, Tondo FC, and Payatas FC are tied to foundations that use the sport of futsal for community development. Azzurri SC, Dr. J Autoklav FC and Pangasinan United FC are private clubs, while the University of Makati is a school-based futsal team that competes in the local university futsal league.

Hermans’ goal is to use the High 5 Women’s League to organize a pool for a four-nations International Women’s Futsal tournament that the PFF is looking to host in October 2023 in the country. 

“We will form a national team from the best players in this league. I am in touch with several countries who already want to come to the Philippines with their women’s futsal teams to compete against us,” added Hermans. “We hope to organize a very nice tournament in October and bring more awareness to futsal and women’s place in this sport.”