Futsal players sparkle in Spain
Tuesday 21st April 2015 @ 12:21 by Mark Phillip

Barcelona has become one of the most revered cities in the world.


The Spanish metropolis boasts a top class football team, some beautiful architecture and a glorious beach.

However, the city was treated to an extra dose of glam recently thanks to a group of local futsal players.

Having been a driving force behind the sport’s popularity in England for the past few years, the next natural step for Neil Lucas -who is the founder of Sala Soccer Schools Academy- was to spread his wings and travel abroad.

Neil has devoted hours of his life to developing young players within the game of futsal, and the fruits of his labour are finally starting to blossom. “I’ve had two under 8 players signed in the past couple of weeks, with one of those going to Burnley and the other signing for Rochdale” beamed Neil “And there’s a few more in the pipeline, so it’s a convey belt that’s going really well at the moment.”

Neil’s time within the sport has been eventful to say the least.

Several people have questioned the use of futsal in the UK, but Neil, surrounded by his cluster of players, have helped in removing those lingering doubts. He added “I’ve always been into football and have been coaching for a few years, but I’ve always admired the Brazilian style of play.

“In the last six months I think there’s definitely been a rise in popularity and a futsal arena has opened at Oldham College.”

The rise in status can be attributed to several factors, with one of the most forceful influences stemming from Spain.

Real Madrid and Barcelona both harbour a number of players whose careers began on the five-a-side court.

Neil has nothing but admiration for these players and heaped praise on their technical ability. “In Brazil, were it was founded, there was no space to play football, so they designed a game to work around the space of the inner city.

“Lots of players have links with the sport, with Messi, Ronaldo and Coutinho to name a few.

“These players were born into the futsal culture and Coutinho didn’t start playing proper football until he was around thirteen years old.”

If futsal is to prosper, then according to Neil, we have to change the culture in England. He added “I think the future of English football will be better, but we have to change the culture.

“The culture within junior football is completely different now, because teams want to win and they are keeping records of all the results.

“If you go abroad, no scores are recorded at all and it’s based on fun and developing players.

“Trophies and medals don’t mean anything at seven or eight years old, although they might mean something when you’re a little bit older.”

Without doubt, Neil’s main point of focus lies with an individual’s development.

That’s not to say he doesn’t take pride in fantastic team performances though, and the father of two was admittedly delighted with his recent trip to Spain. He added “We went out on 2nd April and flew from Manchester to Barcelona.

“We had three groups on the tour which competed in fixtures and people couldn’t quite believe how good we were.”

The distinguished performances impressed so much, that Barcelona approached two of Neil’s players. “We actually had two children scouted for Barcelona and they’ve asked if we can send some video footage over to them” he said.

“It’s just nice to get some recognition from Spanish teams, but whether anything comes from Barcelona, I don’t really know.”

The entourage were treated to a number of fun activities during the trip, but the highlight came at a football sanctuary.

The Nou Camp, which is regarded as one of the most iconic stadia in the world, more than impressed the aspiring young players. Neil added “The second day of the tour was treated as a day of rest, so we had a look at the Nou Camp which was fantastic, and then headed to the ramblas, which is a famous stretch of road in Barcelona.

“We made some really good friends during our time in Spain and the welcome we got was unbelievable.

“It was almost like we were superstars, so it was a really nice feeling for everyone involved.”

If Neil continues to fly the futsal flag, then he could be enshrined as a star in the borough.

At this moment in time though, he will persevere on his mission to raise the profile of the sport he clearly holds dear.

Next on the agenda is a trip to Birmingham for the Club Futsal UK Tournament. Neil said “We’ll be competing at the tournament on August 1st but we won’t be playing in the FA Competition because it’s on a Saturday morning and lots of players will already be competing for their junior sides.”

A repeat journey to Barcelona is also on the cards.

Before he jets across the ocean for a third time though, he has much more to conquer on English terrain.

Admittedly, it won’t be easy. He concluded: “We need to change the facilities for mini soccer, although we are pretty lucky in this area.

“I don’t expect futsal to completely take over, but in January and February, when all the games are called off due to the weather, I think we should run a futsal league instead.”