This year the Futsal Malta Association is celebrating its tenth anniversary.
A modest association seeking to develop a relatively new game, an offshoot of the beautiful game – Futbol de Sala – as it is known in its countries of origin, or as is more widely known today futsal.
Futsal is the 5-a-side indoor variant of football, whose objectives are deeply rooted in the Brazilian favelas providing an open opportunity to all the kids running in the streets to play football and develop their skills.
Throughout the last generation, futsal is acknowledged to be the underlying phenomenon beneath the successful Spanish, Portuguese and Brazilian football status.
The agility, quick thinking and technical skills associated with futsal have helped hundreds of kids including highly-acclaimed international stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta, Kaka etc.
Back to local context and our modest beginnings, futsal started off by with the organisation of a national competition which initially appealed mostly to retired footballers as a post-football hobby.
This interest helped us to raise the profile of the game, however, we knew that this was a short-sighted approach and that more development amongst the grassroots was required.
Our clubs responded well and invested heavily in club administration and quality.
Despite the restrictions imposed on the inclusion of foreigners, the clubs reacted by targeting high-ranking international stars.
This led to outstanding results in international competitions, namely the UEFA Futsal Champions League.
Before 2010, before the setting up of the FMA, Maltese clubs had obtained one single point in international competitions.
A decade after, our clubs (namely Excess, Hibernians, Balzan, Valletta and Luxol) have garnered between them more than 50 points in international competitions, won preliminary rounds unbeaten, reached Champions League Main Round, won against higher-ranked clubs, climbed the ranking list steadily and now stand at the doorstep of the top 16 in Europe.
Champions, Luxol, have been finalists in SportMalta awards for two consecutive years.
Such a success story in a short span, is not very common in the local sport scene, so the obvious question is why have both government administrations not realised the potential of this game and its local appeal and turned a blind eye to continuous appeals to invest in infrastructure.
Up to now, futsal is the only indoor sport which has not benefitted from direct support from SportMalta.
Thankfully the MFA has recognised the importance of futsal within the grassroots structure, as a complementary game to football, and has increased its administrative and financial support tremendously.
I am proud to have been part of this association for eight out of its ten years of existence.
The only reason I have decided to make a comeback is that the game is still far from having reached its full potential and deserves more attention.
It is high time that the government authorities come to terms with the above-mentioned achievements and realise the importance of providing the right infrastructure for the association to be able to reach out for youth development.
With a dedicated Futsal Hall, the association will not only be in a position to continue organising the national league and host international tournaments, but will also be able to set up Youth festivals, U-19 and U-16 competitions, academies and educational courses in conjunction with the MFA Technical Department, which are in high demand.
The challenges for the next decade, building upon the strong foundations which have been laid out, are clearly youth development and infrastructure.
With all our good intentions and the clubs’ investments, we cannot reach our goals alone.
We hope that the authorities recognise the benefits that the game of futsal can bring within the context of a national sports framework and empower the association with the right infrastructure for the years to come.