• The story of Vietnamese futsal
    15:56 | 05/02/2017

    The year of 2016 marked the historic milestones in Vietnamese futsal as the national futsal team convincingly defeated powerhouse Japan in the quarterfinals of the AFC Championships and made it through to the knockout stage of the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia.


    These can be considered miracles for Vietnamese football on the whole.

    The atmosphere at Thai Son Nam Gymnasium, located in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 8, in the late days of November was more animated than usual as the national futsal team had been preparing for the 2016 CFA Futsal international tournament, taking place in Changsha, China from December 2-4.

    When national team members were practising physical strength in the gym room, the pitch became a training venue for the young team of Thai Son Nam Club.

    On the secluded stand was Nguyen Van Hung, grandfather of Thai Minh Quan, a young new player for Thai Son Nam Club. Fastening his eyes on his grandchild’s running movements, Hung noted that Quan’s parents were workers in Long An province.

    Quan left for boarding at Thai Son Nam, leaving only two grandparents at home. Missing the grandchild, Hung drove nearly ten kilometres to the club everyday to see him practise futsal and sometimes to pick him up and take him home on weekends.

    “Seeing me here, he will feel more assured. He has never been away from home before,” Hung said.

    Players like Thai Minh Quan will practise futsal for around seven years before either being given a chance to start a professional career or being eliminated. Youngsters moved and ran constantly on the pitch in sweaty shirts and were repeatedly stopped by trainers to correct their mistakes, from technical to basic.

    Only by directly witnessing their training sessions can we see how “terrible” the moving frequency required for futsal is. The concept of “indoor” in this kind of sport does not mean “leisure.” The sole advantage of futsal over football is the avoidance of the impacts caused by weather factors.

    “Practising futsal even consumes more energy than playing football. Even the strongest member of the team had to ask for substitution after playing constantly for just a few minutes,” goalkeeper Van Huy said. He added that they hardly even had time to breathe sometimes.

    Accommodating only five players on the pitch, far different from football with eleven members, futsal requires diverse techniques in each position. For example, in addition to reflexes for catching and pushing the ball, Van Huy had to practise teeing up, both by hand and by foot, in an accurate fashion right after blocking three shots in a row from different distances.

    He even had to produce nice passes or shots in the situation of the entire team besieging the opponents’ goal. All the other players already fixed for remaining positions, such as Van Vu (Fixo, like a midfielder in football), Quoc Nam (Ala, like a winger in football) or Minh Tri (Pivo, like a forward in football), were able to substitute their teammates in other positions when necessary.

    Behind the glory are the everyday moments for players. Young boys laughed and teased each other and practised “unique and abnormal” acts of celebration whenever they scored a goal. Regularly away from home for training and competition, they revealed that every time off camping, they only wished to return to their families.

    Recalling the moment of screaming, “My wife, I won!” right at the World Cup playground after beating Guatemala, Van Vu laughed awkwardly. All the players were open and friendly, and they did not seem to be used to the concept of “stardom” despite having just excelled brilliantly on the world arena.

    Keeper Van Huy said that the futsal community was very “gentle” and that players loved and care about each other, including those from different teams. In this “land,” the dark side of commercial football has yet to appear.

    According to national team coach Nguyen Bao Quan, the memorable breakthrough of Vietnamese futsal at present resulted from the extraordinary efforts of all members of the team, particularly Tran Anh Tu, the boss of most of the country’s strongest futsal teams.

    The source of players for the national futsal team mostly depends on the youth’s training (of very few clubs) after a minimum five years or on the futsal destiny of several players, who turn from football, such as Bao Quan, Van Huy or Minh Tri. Once the school sports have yet to be developed, it still remains impossible for Vietnamese futsal’s background to catch up with Thailand, not to mention the continent or the world level.

    The journey ahead will not be rosy at all, but even much tougher than the past stage. However, we still keep the faith as a number of southern schools are planning to embrace futsal in their curricula’s physical activities.

    Hopefully, the resounding success of the national futsal team will be a crucial premise for futsal to receive more attention from others, ranging from young people practising it for fun to entrepreneurs who are fostering a serious intention of investing in this kind of sport.

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