Futsal has developed some of the best players in the world specifically in Brazil, from the great Ronaldinho “Guacho” to current star Neymar. However, the United States National team has never produced a world class player. Hakim explains, “In my lifetime, I have never seen a world class player emerge from a rich economic social background of top facilities and structured year-round coaching. No world class player used parachutes to make them run faster, or speed ladders, cones, hurdles, or whatever gimmick some company is touting today to make your child a better athlete or player.”
With abandoned basketball and tennis courts throughout the nation, a transformation to futsal Hakim believes will change that. “The point of futsal is that anyone can play and do what they want with the ball as a form of small sided street soccer. Since South Americans, who developed futsal, were often poor, they did not have a ball to play with or shoes to wear. So they just made a small ball with rags or any object and kicked it around the neighborhood streets and using random sized goals to score in.” FIFA, saw the benefits of futsal and decided to formalize the sport. The world took notice and its popularity grew.
Kab believes that there are three essential ways that futsal can have its strongest impact on America thus forcing states to build futsal courts in their cities.
First, bring futsal to the inner cities and use it as a tool to introduce African-American kids to soccer. He doesn’t see the need for large grass areas and for more facilities to be built. As more black children play, there will be more skill as long as the perception of speed is modified to skill.
Second, he believes that the US must eliminate pay to play. The best soccer players in the world did not pay to play soccer, so if the US is to produce a world class player then that player shouldn’t pay.
Third, sponsor futsal in the schools from elementary to college. Once the popularity grows, push the International Olympic Committee to make it an Olympic sport.
One of the biggest disappointments in American soccer was how Major League Soccer destroyed then 14 year old Freddy Adu. Hakim believes that if futsal had been more popular at the time and, “Had he [Freddy] gone to Brazil, his dribbling instincts would have been encouraged and honed and by age 18 he could have been the real deal here. Futsal can nurture the next Freddy Adu or American Coutinho, Ronaldinho, or Marta but they need to bring the game to every city in America.”
So when asked what it will take to get futsal in every major city across the country, Hakim believes “Futsal courts can be built in every city through a combination of funding and capital management planning. Every city can identify courts that have very little use and each Department of Parks and Recreation can begin listing spaces that can be refurbished with street futsal goals at each end. Repaint the lines so you have a goalkeeper area and half line and a boundary. That’s it. Lights should be added if not already existing. Funding is available in most city budgets if a demand can be shown.”
“US Soccer Foundation has grants that can be used to help light courts and add goals and funds for coaching and balls. MLS has a program for building courts in underserved areas. Then private banks and businesses can be approached if they are allowed to have their name listed on the court. Where there is a vision there is a way. This is why US Soccer must hire a full time Director of Urban Development whose job it should be to develop soccer in every city and underserved area in the country. Such a position must have a clear set of strategies, budget, objectives, and measured progress which should have accountability. You don’t just give dollars to someone and say go coach some kids. There needs to be consistent measurable statistics of amount of players playing and how they are evolving. This will require constant online monitoring and evidence shown by local directors and the national director to travel and see the tangible growth and quality of the program.”
A well thought out plan to see futsal courts across America.