HistoryWednesday, 13 July 2005
No self-respecting football fan would have any difficulty in recalling that the first FIFA World Cup was held in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, in 1930. But how many aficionados of the indoor game, now widely known as Futsal, would suspect that the roots of this branch of the game can also be traced back to the same city, the same country and even the same year?
South American start
A certain Juan Carlos Ceriani devised this version of five-a-side football in his home country for YMCA youth competitions. His idea was that the game could be played both inside and outside on existing basketball-sized courts, but without the use of side walls or boards. Once established, Futsal gained rapid popularity throughout South America and, particularly, in Brazil. Indeed, several of the great names in Brazilian football – Pelé, Zico, Sócrates and Ronaldo, to name but a few – cut their footballing teeth on the Futsal pitch.
After FIFA had introduced Futsal as a new discipline in 1988, it was perhaps no surprise that the Brazilians should be crowned as the first World Futsal Champions in January 1989 in the Netherlands.
In the meantime, Futsal was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe and the number of Futsal-playing countries increased considerably during the 1990s, following the break-up of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. This increased enthusiasm in Europe was reflected on the pitch. UEFA staged a European Futsal Tournament in Córdoba, Spain, in January 1996 and, after three European teams had reached the semi-finals of the third World Championship staged later that year, UEFA’s Executive Committee decided, in April 1997, to introduce a full-scale European Championship.
The club game is well established in Europe. Indeed, there were nine unofficial European club competitions prior to the start of the UEFA Futsal Cup, with the winners always being the hosts and always hailing from Spain, Russia or Italy, with Dina Moscow winning three titles.
And while the 2001/02 season marked the first UEFA Futsal Cup, the event is expanding at a rapid pace. The inaugural tournament was played as a finals competition in Lisbon for the top eight teams in February 2002. Playas de Castellón F.S. of Spain were the winners, defeating Action 21 Charleroi in the final. In 2002/03, the tournament culminated in a two-legged home and away final between Castellón and Charleroi in April/May 2003. Again, the Spanish side were the victors, claiming their second European crown in a row.
The 2003/04 event boasted 33 teams from 32 nations but Spanish dominance continued. However, there was a new name on the trophy as Boomerang Interviú FS triumphed over Iberian rivals SL Benfica 7-5 on aggregate. Finally, the Spanish dominance was ended in 2004/2005 as Action 21 Charleroi atoned for their disappointments of 2002 and 2003 by finally lifting the trophy. They did so in dramatic fashion, defeating MFK Dinamo Moskva 4-3 in the opening leg in Belgium before two extra-time goals gave them a 6-6 draw in Moscow to secure a 10-9 aggregate triumph.
In 2005/06 there were again 34 entries, but one change to the format - the two second qualifying round runners-up would now survive in the competition and meet the other group winners in the semi-finals. But the two first placed sides - Boomerang and Dinamo - still made the final by defeating FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Kairat Almaty respectively, and the Spanish side won back the trrophy as after winning the first leg 6-3 they survived scared in Moscow to win 9-7 overall.
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