Futsal: The Indoor Game That Is Revolutionizing World Soccer

Jamie Fahey. Melville House, $16.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61219-980-1

“At first glance, futsal seems to be a shrunken version of football­­—but in fact it boasts many more layers,” argues Guardian journalist Fahey in this spirited mix of memoir and sports history. He traces his own “voyage of discovery in the five-a-side game,” from his childhood playing soccer in the streets of Liverpool in the 1970s and ’80s to his later years as a “semi-professional footballer and aspiring youth coach.” He covers futsal’s origins, which began in a Uruguayan YMCA in 1930 after a dearth of soccer fields was addressed by moving indoors, and elucidates its differences from regular soccer: it’s played on a court with only five players on each side and with a smaller ball that bounces less. Fahey’s particularly skilled at conveying how the game’s distinct features—which cumulatively place a premium on ball retention and protection—and its reputation as an “incubator... for creative high-speed wizardry” has revolutionized the game of soccer via the “powers of precision” that “futsal-formed Brazilian ball masters” like Ronaldhino have brought to the field. While casual readers may choose to skim the granular play-by-plays (“The nominal left–back... switched play after a micro-pause in possession involving a futsal calling card”), even they are likely to emerge enlightened. For a growing sport that’s unfamiliar to most Americans, this is a big win. (Aug.)
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