Spotlight: Futsal

Knowing that the Futsal lads were preparing for a vital BUCS match against Lincoln did nothing to ease my nerves with respect to a two-hour training session in the Tent on Thursday evening. I was greeted by a chipper James Briars and coach Junior Roberti, who promised to get me ‘involved as much as possible’, but with intense tactical preparation for the Lincoln match included in the session, I knew I’d have to sit out some of the drills. The session began with some classic P.E style circuit training, with quick sprints and shimmies the order of the day. I was able to keep up with initial drills despite shortness of breath, but as they became increasingly complex, I became unable to cope with the demand, and I was grateful when James Briars told me I could take as ‘much time as I need.

Meanwhile, the other lads got on with a drill involving jumping on each others’ backs, crawling through legs then running back around to start again. Once the warm-ups were out of the way, coach Junior called everyone over and began to get into the meat of zonal defending and how best to counteract it. His knowledge of the game and attention to detail was astounding, even more so the way in which the players (particularly the seasoned National League campaigners) carried out his instructions. Eventually, he signalled to me to come and take part in the drill. I took up a position as one of the attackers in a ‘diamond 4’. In this role I would need to make a quick pass and immediately move to overlap and put a defender under pressure.

While I was surefooted in the pass, the movement and fitness of intensely tactical Futsal soon took its toll on me, and I was huffing and puffing, frequently ball-chasing, and getting nowhere fast as the ball pinballed around. I was thankful when Junior swapped the players around, but there was no rest for the wicked as I found myself pulling on a defender’s bib and lining up against the best of our Uni Futsal players. Defending in a drill is simple enough- don’t press too high and drop off on the overlapping man when he goes round the outside. The challenge arose when I found myself in the thick of the action in a match situation, remembering when to stick and when to drop off is challenging when you’re busting a gut just to keep up. Luckily, I was on a team with National League players who were able to guide me through the final game. I left the Tent far more educated (and far more knackered) than I arrived, and with far greater respect for the fitness behind the beautiful game.