The Urban Dictionary describes the word sick as crazy, cool, insane, awesome, hot, fabulous, great. And by that definition, Santos FC’s futsal program located at Vila Belmiro on Rua Princesa Isabel in the coastal city of Santos, may be the sickest place on the planet. The Black Plague, the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, and Woody Harrelson’s Zombieland all pale in comparison.
Getting a ticket to observe a Santos training is the most difficult one in town. If for no other reason because no tickets exist. Training is off limits to parents and the public. And yet there I was, thanks to Federico Mariel of City Futsal, standing by myself on a court side balcony witnessing otherworldly play. On the opposite wall, a giant poster of Neymar, Rodrygo, Gabigol, and a dozen other homegrown players reminded everyone of futsal’s importance in giant 24-inch lettering: OUR GREATEST FOOTBALL PLAYERS PLAYED FUTSAL.
But the clincher wasn’t the poster. It was a dozen 12-year-olds that connected the dots for me. It’s one thing to see videos of Ronaldinho or Neymar playing futsal as youths, but to actually see a live game where superior ball control was the rule and not the exception was humbling. At least half of the players seemingly could not be dispossessed. Even with in-your-face, aggressive defending, these players found a way to feint, juke, and bypass defenders. But the technique was just the top layer on this Bolo Mousse de Maracuyá. Underneath, in equally impressive amounts, tactical awareness, movement off-the-ball, and decision making were layered in. Apparently at Santos FC you can have your cake and eat it, too. Just sick.