By Richard McLaws and Walter De Simoni
Last week we were in São Paulo enjoying the musical stylings of Ratos de Porão. This week we make our way back north, to Fortaleza, and take a look at the sport most played by Brazilians.
14 June Uruguay – Costa Rica 17 June Brazil – Mexico 21 June Germany – Ghana 24 June Greece – Ivory Coast 29 June 1B – 2A 04 July W49 – W50
You have made your travel arrangements, you got your hands on some sweet match tickets, and you are counting down the days before you see the greatest sporting event in history: the World Cup. You will see the best teams in the world, Mexico will be there too. You will see the best moves, the most incredible skills, and the most unlikely of goals. Right? Well, maybe not. But you might get to see it in Fortaleza.
While soccer is, without a doubt, the most viewed sport in Brazil, it is not exactly the most played. That honor goes to its five-a-side variant called futebol de salão, or Futsal. Originating in South America in the 1930s, most likely in Uruguay though for the sake of this series lets just assume Brazil, futsal in Brazil is much more than just a five-a-side pickup game. Over the years it has become a behemoth in its own right governed by the Brazilian Futsal Confederation located in Fortaleza.
Futsal, while lacking the prestige of soccer, is characterized by fast paced gameplay in a confined space that requires exemplary individual skills on the ball. It is safe to say that most of the Brazilian greats including Pele, Bebeto, and Neymar have honed their skills on the Futsal court.
Brazil has dominated international Futsal competitions for the past four decades. Starting with the first Futsal World Championship in 1982 (before FIFA got its grubby little hands on the sport in 1989), Brazil has gone on to win seven of ten such tournaments. Most recently beating powerhouse Spain in the final of the 2012 Thailand World Cup.
Much like professional soccer, in Brazil Futsal features a national league, cup, and parallel state competitions. The cup, known as the Taça Brasil de Futsal, is the country’s oldest Futsal competition, dating back to the 1960s. The national league, or Liga Futsal, did not come about until the 1990s. As a testament to how widely played the game is, Brazil managed to dominate the sport on an international level during the absence of an organized professional league for decades.
One of, if not the, best Futsal player in the world is Falcão. As a key figure in the Brazilian National Futsal team he lead Brazil to victory in both the 2008 and 2012 Futsal World Cups. Before that Falcão was able to successfully crossover to soccer with a stint at São Paulo FC in 2005, helping the team claim the Copa Libertadores. Falcão has most recently claimed back-to-back Liga Futsal titles with Intelli.
In Brazil it is simply impossible to avoid Futsal. If you don’t want to look around for a game to jump in on, all you have to do is turn on a TV. Of the infinite sports channels you will find it is likely that a third of them will have a Futsal game on, while the other two thirds have just plain old soccer. Though if you think you have the chops you should try to get in on a game, and get schooled by a bunch of toddlers.