Futsal – a variation of indoor soccer – is being introduced to Hay River.
On the evening of Nov. 7, the Hay River Elks Soccer Program opened registration for futsal each Saturday evening at the Diamond Jenness Secondary School gym.
“It’s just a different version of soccer,” said Mark Miehm, a volunteer coach who will be passing along his knowledge of futsal.
Miehm, a new teacher at Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River Reserve, has been playing futsal for 20 years, beginning when he was growing up in Ontario.
“It was created in Brazil, and basically you have a weighted ball,” he explained. “So it’s making the game a lot more under control and you have boundaries. In traditional indoor soccer, you bounce it off the walls.”
Changing the rules changes the emphasis on different skills, he said.
“This is encouraging fast play, encouraging foot skills, basically encouraging keeping the ball on the ground and developing the skills of players.”
The boundaries are usually the black lines of the basketball court in a gym.
There are also kick-ins, fast changes and not a lot of stoppages in play.
“It’s a really quick game,” said Miehm.
The smaller, weighted ball is likely the main difference.
“So it just dies on the ground,” said Miehm. “It doesn’t really bounce.”
The coach said futsal, with its emphasis on playing the ball and fast play, improves players’ overall soccer skills.
“Players are going to get better,” he said. “They’re going to start thinking faster. And so it teaches the basic stuff you need for outdoor play but outdoors you have a bit more time on the ball because it’s such a bigger field and 11 players. Whereas here it’s four vs. four and a goalie. So it’s just nice quick play.”
The futsal introduction is being sponsored by the Hay River Elks Soccer Program.
“Mark has been this amazing addition to Elks Soccer this year,” said Michelle Staszuk, a member of the board of Elks Soccer. “He’s a new teacher in town and has come forward, and I believe he’s volunteering with every single group from ages three to 18 which is amazing. We have never had an Elks Soccer program for kids older than 14 before.”
Staszuk said futsal is now the form of soccer that will be played at the Arctic Winter Games.
The Saturday-evening program will be for teenage boys and girls up to 17, and will be divided into three age divisions.
The name futsal comes from thePortuguese term “futebol de salão,” which translates to “room football.”
Hay River is not the first community in the South Slave to see the arrival of futsal. It is already being played at Deninu School in Fort Resolution.
Fourteen-year-old Fiona Huang has just started playing the soccer variant.
“I enjoy that you don’t need to use the walls,” she said. “I find it more interesting.”
Huang believes futsal will help improve her soccer skills, and she encourages other young people to try the different form of the game.
“It’s something new,” she said. “It’s always nice to try something new.”
Miehm is also hoping to attract a group of players older than 17 years.
“I just want to play,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s just basically a more intense game,” said the certified coach. “It’s more entertaining. All around, it’s a fun thing to do.”