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Futsal league well-received
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In this Feb. 7 photo, Martinsville High School freshman Matthew Mason (left) dribbles the ball during a futsal game between MHS and Patrick Henry Community College at Carlisle Elementary School. Futsal is a Brazilian style of indoor soccer. (Bulletin photo by Chris Pride)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

By CHRIS PRIDE - Bulletin Sports Writer

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is still a year and a half away, but while the rest of the world patiently awaits the 32 teams that will battle for world supremacy on the pitch in 2014, a little piece of the Samba nation is already in the Piedmont.

Futsal, a hybrid of American indoor soccer, has taken off in the area thanks to Patrick Henry Community College men’s soccer coach Scott Haywood. The league will compete tonight for the final time this season.

Played on a hard indoor surface such as wood or synthetic material, the game doesn’t feature walls. Instead it is played within lines and features a different style ball to promote ball control and skill.

Originating in the 1930s in Brazil and Uruguay, futsal was developed because of the lack of playing fields in each country. It is widely regarded as the most practiced sport in Brazil.

Haywood, who has devoted portions of his life to soccer, first discovered the unique style of the game while learning in Brazil for several years.

While training with the Sao Paulo Football Club, Haywood picked up the game, because that’s what they played most often. Since there is no organized high school soccer in Brazil, futsal takes its place. The PHCC coach then brought the concept back to Virginia this winter, saying he didn’t exactly know what the response would be.

“I bought like 10 futsal balls and brought them back and started training teams I was working with in futsal,” Haywood said. “We went inside and started playing this and it just caught on like wild fire. It’s perfectly suited for the American game because large portions of the country can’t play all year long. But you can with this.”

Initially looking for a way to keep his college team training throughout the winter, Haywood joined with Piedmont Youth Soccer League director and Carlisle boys soccer coach Enda Crehan to work out the logistics of a league. Haywood helps coach Crehan’s PYSL U18 team.

With the league in need of a place to play, Crehan met with Carlisle School Athletic Director Keith Dallas, and the school decided to open up its elementary school gym on Thursday nights.

Crehan had run indoor soccer leagues up to U14 at the Martinsville YMCA through PYSL. But this was different, and something Crehan was happy to contribute to.

He also plays in the league.

“It’s fun. I mean, I love futsal,” Crehan said. “It’s definitely a great benefit, and we’re — myself, Keith Dallas, and (Carlisle assistant soccer coach) Richard (Hall) — definitely happy to host it here at Carlisle. ... It’s a great benefit to the community.”

After the first few weeks, the league quickly took off.

“I’m the men’s coach at PHCC and I needed something for my guys to do during the offseason,” Haywood said. “I thought to myself futsal, so I introduced it to the guys and they thought it was awesome.

“It’s turned out to be more competitive than I thought. I was just looking for players to come out, work on skill and have fun. I think that’s human nature, but it also says the kids are excited to play.”

Hoping to gather at least five or six teams and maybe play a little over a month, 11 teams eventually were grouped with a schedule encompassing eight weeks. Today marks the final week in the season. PHCC has three teams, as does the Martinsville High School, including an all-freshman team. Carlisle also has a team, along with Magna Vista, while a team from Danville is also in the mix. Haywood said it was a shock to see so much enthusiasm that next year might be a first come, first serve basis.

With several players already playing indoor soccer in Greensboro, Haywood was looking to bring things closer to Martinsville. The diversity of the league is easily evident, featuring a wide gap in age, along with an all-female team and a handful of players of different nationalities.

“We all thought it was a really good idea to keep us in touch throughout the winter,” Martinsville High School freshman Sam Dickerson said. “This is a good diverse league and it’s not about winning or losing, but improving your touch and skills. This has been something fun to look forward to every week, to come out and play with your buddies and not care about winning or losing. All the other teams love it and Martinsville has a few teams, so it’s been fun to talk some smack.”

Each team has five field players and a goalie in futsal, much like in the American version of indoor soccer. However, with a smaller space and the inability to use walls, more emphasis is on working in tight spaces and improvisation. The smaller heavier ball also demands superior ball control and foot speed.

One of Haywood’s players and former Bassett standout Jake Sharpe said the game resembles real soccer on an indoor surface.

“It’s a smaller ball, a little harder and doesn’t bounce as much, so you really have to have your touch on it,” Sharpe said. “It is kind of like backyard ball. People can try different moves that they might not normally try in a regular game. It can make things fancy.”

Dickerson, too, has noticed his skills on the ball improve since the league began.

“The difference from regular indoor soccer, is that there are no walls and floor is faster,” Dickerson said. “There is also less space to operate, so touch, creativity and passing are very important. My touch has improved dramatically.”

Haywood said the response from parents has been awesome. When he started handing out flyers about the start of the league in the fall, high school coaches in the area caught wind of it and also felt it was a good idea. He said it’s been a way to help keep the sport going more year-round in the area.

And for Sharpe and his PHCC teammates, the league is more than just practice in the offseason.

“The response has been great, because not many people knew what it was. But over the last two months, players have loved it,” Sharpe said. “It’s addicting and with it once a week, you can’t wait to get out and play. I didn’t exactly know about the game either, but it’s more like real soccer just on a hard surface. It’s a perfect hybrid.”

While the first season of the area’s futsal league comes to a close tonight, Haywood said he hopes it will only continue to grow.

But as far as year one goes, the league has already exceeded his expectations.


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