So on Tuesday I experienced my first live Serie A Futsal match when I came to see a former player in action, Maxi Navarro. The Uruguayan international, 30, played with me at Tranmere for four matches, helping us to our first wins of the season and then again in Malta, where we finished 3rd.
I enjoyed an intense match but it looked more like a lower league English game when considering the sports hall, but with top international players.
The court was more suited to the third division in Spain – indeed, I’ve played in better halls at 5th tier under-19s – than the Serie A Futsal in Italy but that didn’t detract from the quality on the court. The home team was Todis Lido di Ostia, who were fighting for survival in Serie A against Feldi Eboli, currently in the playoffs (top 8).
The first thing I noticed about the game was the lack of build up play, mostly due to the intensity of the teams pressing. Few passes followed by a long pass and a turnover in possession. Credit to the defences for not allowing this. Eboli took an early 1-0 lead through a set piece that deflected and fell to Selucio, but after that it was the home side who created more and better chances. It was a game that the now relegated team could easily have won and you wouldn’t have thought they were in trouble.
It finished up 0-3 to Eboli, which keeps their place in the Serie A futsal playoffs and relegated Todis Lido di Ostia with two matches remaining.
What struck me about Serie A futsal is the disparity between venues. In some places they have fantastic arenas like the Palesele in Eboli, that I visited when England played the qualifiers with Italy, Hungary and Belarus (below).
Ideally, you’d have both the level of players/teams playing at the top arenas, but with just one, I think the “product” is ready and will pull up the other. An example is Thailand around 15 years ago: they didn’t have a great level of futsal, but they had the set up, TV and arenas to make it look ready and from their they have grown up and are now a strong futsal nation. Similarly in France a few years ago – they had great arenas with players just starting out and look at them now!
You can’t have neither and expect TV to be interested, but I feel with one, it’s a start and Italy this week opened my eyes a bit to the latter – not a great looking arena, but a high quality match with international players. It wasn’t on TV, but it was filmed and
Just to relate this back to England (and of course any developing nation), it took us a long time to get one of the aspects right – the set up, finding the right arenas and dressing them up to look good on TV. Until BT Sport came on board in England, very few venues were suitable, and in all fairness very few still are, given that all TV games are held at Wolverhampton. Now we’ve got this right, though, I am sure the level of the teams and players will catch up quickly.
I’d totally recommend getting over to Italy to see some futsal. There are loads of teams in and around Rome and it’s easy to get around with cheap and comfortable trains. I’m more than happy to help organise a trip at some point, don’t hesitate to get in touch!