Adjustment time for new game

Soccer players, coaches and officials familarize themselves with the game of futsal

Casey Lessard | Nunavut
November 17, 2014
Iqaluit Huskies player Jaymi Kakee, left, battles for the ball against Cape Dorset Predators player Ian Qaumagiuq in an indoor soccer tournament held in the territory last year. - NNSL file photo

Iqaluit Huskies player Jaymi Kakee, left, battles for the ball against Cape Dorset Predators player Ian Qaumagiuq in an indoor soccer tournament held in the territory last year. – NNSL file photo

Athletes and coaches across the territory are preparing themselves in the game of futsal, which is set to replace indoor soccer at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games.

Futsal is considered by many to be a cousin to soccer. It is sanctioned by the Federation International Football Association (FIFA), and it is played across the globe. It is essentially an indoor version of the familiar outdoor game, with some minor differences.

To name a few, the side boards are removed and line boundaries are put in place. Futsal uses kick-ins as opposed to throw-ins when the ball goes out of play. Rather than soccer’s two 45-minute halfs, futsal game-length is two 20-minute halfs.

In futsal there are no off-sides, and the regulation ball is heavier with less bounce. Field player numbers remain nearly the same, with futsal using five players a side instead of the six per side as with soccer.

Technical director of the AWG, Ian Legaree, explained that rule change will allow play and rule consistency to take place between the communities across the three territories.

“In previous AWG, we essentially wrote up a set of rules that were a combination of rules across the North because every jurisdiction had variations on what rules they played by. This will help the players and coaches be on the same page to rule play at the games,” he said. “I think people recognize that it is a positive move to have one set of rules that everyone can work towards.”

The decision to move to futsal was made by the AWG International Committee four years ago. The committee, however, wanted to give the jurisdictions time to conform to the new rules of futsal.

“We decided to give them two sets of games to adjust because there was some coach and official training that needed to happen. The jurisdictions were generally supportive and they requested some time to get ready for the rule changes,” Legaree explained.

Joselyn Morrison, president of the Nunavut Soccer Association, explained that the organization held fustal-specific tournaments this past fall so that the players, coaches and officials could adjust to the unfamiliar rules

“It has been a big learning curve, but everyone seems to be doing OK,” she said.

Morrison said that the exclusion of the boards has had the largest effect on the game. It creates a faster-paced game with a stronger focus on ball control and passing, since the players can no longer bounce the ball off the wall.

“That is the big difference in the game. So we have been working with our young soccer players in Nunavut on improving that part of the game for them,” she said.

Although Morrison feels that the overall the change to futsal is positive, it does come with its set of challenges for the territory. With no full time access to turf in Iqaluit, for example, Morrison explained that futsal rules have been difficult to implement in a gymnasium setting.

“Gyms are as small as it is and then you have to make a boundary line it cuts the size in half. It cuts down the space when we are already limited. So it is kind of a setback because it is one more thing added on to our list of things to learn,” she said.

Legaree said that the adjustments might be easier for the athletes in Yellowknife, since they have been playing on a large turf field from that start.

Not only is this issue relevant in Iqaluit, but communities across Nunavut do not have access to large turf fields, as their practices usually take place in school gymnasiums as well.

For Morrison, adjusting to the larger surfaces at national competitions and the AWG has always been an issue for the territory.

“That has always been our challenge. Since we have been a territory and have started attending the games, we practice in the gyms then we get put on a turf. It is very different. Our soccer has never been on the same calibre as say Greenland or Alaska, so I think the same struggles will be present,” she said.

The Nunavut Soccer Association hasn’t held any official local futsal coaching or referee clinics, but they have worked with local people that are interested in learning the new rules during the fall tournament play.