I’ve been refereeing football (soccer) for about 15 years now and I have loved every minute of it. The players, the coaches, the crazy parents yelling at me from the sidelines…every single aspect of the game intrigues me and makes me smile. So, if I love “The Beautiful Game” so much, what made me tackle a different sport like Futsal? I say different sport because although Futsal is in many ways the same as football, it is also very different.
My good friend larbitre started officiating Futsal about 3 years ago and told me about how much fun it was and how quick the games were, and that he enjoyed it so much that he started running his own league at his school. After some discussion, it was decided that I would venture into this new territory and get certified as a Futsal referee. Little did I know how difficult it was going to be, trying to wrap my head around some of the rules and the different approach to officiating that is required in Futsal.
Some would argue that it is an easy transition from Football to Futsal in that you kick a ball around and try to score in the other teams net. However, in my experience, the 2 games are vastly different from one another. The main difference from a players perspective is that the game is FAST…with emphasis on skill and ball control. Futsal is a very technical game, where as its outdoor, 11-a-side counterpart is more tactical and strategic. That’s not to say that there is no skill involved with 11-a-side football, it’s just that Futsal is a very technical game, and since it’s played at a very fast pace, and the space is so small, technique and skills are extremely important. However, from a refereeing perspective the differences are vast, the transition is not smooth, and the learning curve is huge!
There are some differences that are to be expected, like the field markings, duration of play, unlimited substitutions on the fly, referee positioning, etc. But, there are others that start to play tricks with your head. One of the more challenging things to wrap your mind around is the fact that the goalkeeper only has 4 seconds to play the ball, at ANY given moment. As well as, the ball must be put back into play within 4 seconds at any given restart. The referees must count these seconds and show this by raising their arm in the air and counting with their fingers.
The biggest hurdle that I have yet to jump is my foul recognition. In futsal, it’s pretty much a no contact sport, or at least that how it’s been taught to me, or how I have perceived it to be. I’m not saying that it’s like basketball however, the amount of contact allowed, that is to say the referee’s foul threshold is much more diminutive in that most of the small pushing and holding one would allow in the 11-a-side game is highly frowned up on in Futsal and usually nipped early in the match. After refereeing for 15 years, this is my hardest obstacle to overcome as I like to let players be exactly that…PLAYERS…and let them play! Let the trifling fouls be and let the players dictate what happens, all in a fair and safe manner, or course. Last season was my first Futsal season and right from my very first whistle I knew that if I was going to become one of the top Futsal referees in this province, it’s going to take some hard work to change my thought process. This is now my second season refereeing Futsal and I just know that it’s not going to be any easier.
Anyway, for those of you who are thinking of making the transition, I don’t caution you but urge you to try it out. It’s going to be a bumpy road in the beginning, but a fun road none-the-less. Futsal is a great game. It’s fast paced, exciting and lots of fun.
Here’s to another fun filled winter of FUTSAL!!! (Hopefully I’ll survive with minimal damage to my ego)
The Third Blind Mouse