This summer my sons accompanied City Futsal on their highly regarded annual trip to Santos to train with the famed Santos FC program. Recent Santos alumi include Neymar, Gabriel Barbosa, and Rodrygo. Jose Barata generously provided his thoughts on futsal’s influence on Brazilian football. He also spoke to the differences between Brazilian and American futsal.
BULLDOGS: Barata, in what way has futsal influenced players from Santos and the surrounding area?
BARATA: In reality, it’s a combination of a few factors. For example, the increase in violence has limited places to play football. Part of Brazil’s culture was to play in the street, play in open spaces. I was part of a generation that still played in the streets. My mom allowed me, but today unfortunately due to the violence there are not a lot of places to play in Santos. There is still the beach where a player can play freely. So with limited playing spaces and an increase in violence, players began moving indoors to futsal. This was the beginning of futsal’s start as a tool that benefitted player development in the areas of fitness, physiology, and maturity. So futsal is a sport that benefits youth right away. Historically Santos is known as a club that is forward thinking. Players that dribble, players that win over fans with attacking play. And these are qualities that especially apply to futsal, a game that favors a team that attacks, makes quick decisions, and has the ability to solve problems. So I believe for these reasons futsal is apart of Santos’ player development. We can talk about the past, where the club’s biggest transfers have involved players with a futsal background. For example, Robinho, Neymar, Gabigol, and now Rodrygo who was just sold to Real Madrid for I forget how many millions. So futsal is key to the formation of Santos’ players. The biggest clubs in Brazilian football, not all, but most, include futsal in their process for development.
So to revisit a couple ideas we’ve touched on. First, a kid no longer has a place to start playing football. At one point in Brazil there was an informal route for development, perhaps like with basketball in the US where if you travel around you’ll see a basketball hoop in front of many houses. So this is a part of the culture. It’s a sport open to free play, street ball. So creative qualities are allowed to develop. In Brazil this was always a strength as well: creativity and playing smarts. It was always the difference maker for the national team and its World Cup wins. When this way of player development went away, when street-ball was eliminated from a football player’s development, it was quickly replaced with futsal. Of course it’s not every club that has done this, but the biggest names in Brazilian football have come from futsal, from top clubs like Flamengo, Vasco, Corinthians, Santos, Palmeiras. We can name Zico, Ronaldo, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Neymar, Rivellino, Romario. All of them had futsal as part of their development. So the greatest teams arrived at this abundance of riches with futsal as a tool. Futsal’s role is very important in this past success. It’s almost obligatory to have futsal, although as mentioned not all teams use it, but most of the top clubs are thoroughly involved with it.
We have a relationship with the US, with City Futsal. The parents and players note our intensity, our passion. From our point of view that’s not the only difference. The biggest obstacle for American futsal is the competitiveness found in games. The US has smart players, they enjoy playing the game, and there are organized coaches. However in Brazil an 8-year-old, for example from Santos, plays in the Paulista league and plays in games such as Santos vs Corinthians or Santos vs Sao Paulo. He now has to rise to the occasion and develop strategies to defeat the opponent, develop resilience to overcome a loss, and train the next day. All these factors aren’t that obvious to the outsider. They only see the fight, the determination, and the deep emotion attached to winning and losing.
But what’s missing from the US players? Some of the American futsal characteristics that we see are a lack of criticism between players. There’s no complaining when a goal is given up. There’s not much accountability between players. Perhaps this is a reflection on the lack of competitiveness. Whereas here there will be criticism if a ball is stolen and a goal results. One friend will criticize another so the mistake won’t happen again. So this behavior is beneficial for us. The main difference I’ve noted, in my opinion, is this competitive factor. At u8, u9, and u10 this past year, the teams played 55 games. 55 games at a very good level. Every week a player reflects on whether we were better, or worse, or the same as the opponent. Only these types of games and only this level of competitiveness promotes this type of player development.