Report by Hannah Roberts.
On Saturday July 9th, Birmingham’s International Futsal once again played host to the Girls Futsal Challenge Cup.
Futsal is a 5-a-side, indoor version of football, with a weighted ball designed to emphasise players’ touch, technical ability and flair, as opposed to typical physicality and power.
It was the fourth edition of the tournament organised by St Albans City Youth Community Football Club. There were U14 and U16 age groups, and even with 24 teams involved, they were all guaranteed a minimum of 80 minutes of football, in a group stage then knockout style.
Chris Johnson, the coach from St Albans City Youth FC, who organised the tournament, has been an advocate for more futsal opportunities for many years, as he feels that not only offers a great alternative for cancelled games in the winter months, but can also act as an excellent tool for developing young players’ games.
“Cancelled games and unplayable pitches are youth football’s Groundhog Day. Poor weather and pitches undoubtedly shape the way our players develop as individuals, and team style of play. Futsal and street football form part of, and are the foundations of every player’s introduction to football in countries such as Brazil and Argentina, where technical excellence and creative style are the cornerstones of their national teams. “Most importantly, Futsal is a fantastic game in its own right, with the constant transitions in
play and high importance of the goalkeeper, rewarding all players with many touches and involvement in play.”
Teams travelled from as far as Cheshire and Wales to attend, and the standard of football was exceptionally high, despite all of the teams coming from grassroots. It was a pleasure to watch the technical ability of not a few but all of the players on show - particularly in the U14 competition. Many of the clubs now have futsal-specific training, and it is clear that the quality of players in that age bracket has benefited enormously, and is far ahead of the girls before them.
Tottenham Hotspur and St Albans City Youth FC provided half of the teams between them, with eight and four respectively - and it was Spurs who dominated the U16 age group.
Spurs White went unbeaten throughout the day, before edging out compatriots Spurs Yellow, who had also won all of their group games, in a fiercely contested final. Hosts City Youth Gold took home the bronze with a 1-0 win over Hitchin Belles in the third-place playoff - particularly impressive for a team made mostly of U15 players.
It was a similar story in the U14 age group, as three of the four semi-finalists were Tottenham teams, but Denham United 2 beat Spurs White and Spurs Purple in the knockout stages to take home the trophy.
One of the stories of the tournament was that of Glamorgan Blues in the U14 age group - not only playing up an age group but visibly much smaller than their opponents, after losing their first four games, they snatched an unlikely 3-2 win over one of the Spurs teams - an excellent result, and some excellent celebrations too!
There was a very positive atmosphere throughout the day, as the teams watched the other games and offered support to everyone else, as well as taking advantage of the convenient food choices and warm-up pitches. The girls also enjoyed a more professional environment than they are likely used to, with electronic timing and scoring systems throughout the venue.
Also in attendance was professional freestyler Charlotte Lade, who ran workshops for all the girls throughout the day, as well as performing a routine on one of the pitches before the U16 knockout stages began. On behalf of St Albans City Youth FC we’d like to thank Charlotte for giving her time to come along to the tournament.