On Saturday, July 30th, the Atlanta Youth Futsal League will begin playoffs after their inaugural season. The regular season started back in June and includes three different age groups: 5-7, 8-10, and 11-12 year-olds. In the first season, the AYFL had teams from Soccer in the Streets (Vine City), the Atlanta-based non-profit, MLK, Jr. Recreation Center, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Kids.
The games are hosted at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. The referees are older students in the Soccer in the Streets program to help students gain on-the-job experience. Around 80 players signed up for this first season.
Futsal has been a frequent topic in Atlanta’s greatest soccer minds for many years now. “We know of its value as a game that quickly develops players and have even used it for programming in the City of Atlanta during introductory programs for the past several years,” said Jill Robbins, the Chief Program Officer.
Robbins is also ambitious about the role futsal can play in the City of Atlanta in the coming years.
“It could become the summer sport of choice... There is no doubt that futsal has a future in the City of Atlanta...” she said. “I can see multiple satellite decisions popping up among the dozens of rec centers across the city. Kids of all ages will be playing and the Atlanta Public Schools will also use futsal as a means for improving the level of soccer in their athletic programs.”
Futsal is not only fun but can also help with player development, especially here in Atlanta.
“The organization of futsal will rapidly improve Atlanta soccer as a whole. If you want to succeed in soccer, the grassroots are the foundation,” AYFL Coach, Abdul Bangura said.
As a futsal court is much smaller than a regular soccer field, it requires technical ability and quickness.
“Futsal enables players to grow up having a very high confidence to play in tight situations. It helps the kids to have good ball control,” continued Bangura.
Futsal has even been a mainstay of the national programs of Uruguay and Brazil. It’s also rapidly growing in Spain and Portugal. All countries in which we praise their players’ technical ability, flair, and agility.
Current Barcelona and Spain legend, Andrés Iniesta even credits his ability to futsal, claiming that “mastering the ball, combining, and making quick decisions” in the sport helped him become the success he is today.
Robbins and Bangura are right; futsal can catch on in this city. Soccer is already easy to play, you only need a ball, but you need to a flat outdoor space. Grassy areas in the city can be hard to find outside Piedmont Park, but futsal can be played in the many gyms across the city. You can play during those miserable sunny days when it’s too hot to play sports. It is a development tool used by some of the best soccer nations, clubs, and players around the world. Just as soccer is growing across the country, futsal can catch on in our cities.