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Futsal gets a foot in the door - Centretown News
Friday, 09 April 2010 04:21
futsalwireCentretown News'The Longshots' playing futsal against 'The Worst Team Ever' at the gym in the Adult High School. The newest addition to Lisgar ...

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 Julie Myhre, Centretown News'The Longshots' playing futsal against 'The Worst Team Ever' at the gym in the Adult High School.

The newest addition to Lisgar Collegiate’s intramural sports calendar is not a widely recognized sport in Canada, but Ottawa is home to the nation’s largest group of futsal players.

Futsal is a variation of indoor soccer.

Five players on each team compete indoors on a gymnasium floor within line boundaries.

The teams use a heavier ball that bounces less than a regular soccer ball, which gives the player more foot control.

Players also get more time on the court.Celebrating its 20th anniversary this season, the Ottawa-Carleton Futsal League has grown steadily in the last 10 years, from 1,044 players registered in the 2001-2002 season to almost 2,000 players last year.

With a men’s, women’s, co-ed and youth division, the OCFL has the most comprehensive league in Canada.For the last few years, students at Lisgar have been able to play lunch-hour futsal during the month of May.

John Ruff, head of physical education at Lisgar, says futsal is an alternative for students who lack the time commitment or were cut in the team tryout for the outdoor competitive soccer league.

“It’s just a different game,” says Ruff.

“It takes more control to move (the ball).

It’s just tailoring the outdoor game to indoor.”Last year’s intramural program generated enough interest for a school tournament, and Ruff expects the same enthusiasm this year.

Karl Gray, one of the founding members of the OCFL and league manager, says futsal is an easy sport to introduce to schools.“The school year does not encompass the summer months, much of the time when people are playing soccer,” says Gray.

“Futsal is played in a school gym and therefore can be played all year.”Lisgar’s intramural program and more organized forms of school futsal are programs the OCFL has been championing for years.

In 2006, the OCFL submitted a proposal to the National Capital Secondary Schools Athletic Association to add futsal to the winter term of high school competitive sports.

Futsal is the only indoor soccer recognized by FIFA, the world governing body of soccer.

“Futsal can only help the soccer teams at the schools help develop the youth for the outdoor season,” says Paulo Bellem, the OCFL’s chair.

“In Brazil, futsal is a main sport for youth.

This is why people from Brazil are the best in the world.” When the athletic association did not respond to the proposal, Gray decided to reach out to youth in other ways.

For the last four years, Gray and the OCFL sponsored the Bell High School futsal tournament in Ottawa.

Glebe Collegiate Institute’s senior boys’ team won the title last year.

Kailey Lewis, 17, joined the OCFL when she was eight because summer soccer didn’t offer enough months of competition for the left forward.“I definitely think futsal should be incorporated into the high school athletic program because it is a great way to get exercise and develop skills,” says Lewis, who attends St.

Paul High School in Ottawa’s west end.

“Personally, I like futsal better than soccer because of the fast-paced game and the higher skill level needed.”Because futsal involves on-the-fly substitutions, similar to hockey, Lewis says the game is more exciting to play and watch.

Quebec has developed a school futsal program and their students are now using higher skills in professional soccer leagues, says Gray.

He hopes schools in the capital region follow suit as a league requires little effort to start up.