The Football Association will create a women’s national futsal team for the first time as it tries to increase female participation and capitalize on the football team’s historic success at Euro 2022, the Guardian has learned.
An under-19 squad will be set up, with the prospect of a full senior squad later, and the age-matched men’s squad will be revived to compete in the European Under-19 Futsal Championship qualifiers years in January.
The move, described as a ‘game changer’ for the women’s game in England, comes two-and-a-half years after the FA cut almost all funding for the Fifa-sanctioned five-a-side sport and were fined by the for pulling the senior men’s team out of Euro 22 qualifying.
An FA spokesman told the Guardian: “We are finalizing exciting plans for futsal… which involve working with the sport’s wider stakeholders and include representative England teams at under-19 level. Full details will be announced in due course. »
Leanne Skarratt, women’s and girls’ coach at Manchester Futsal Club, said: “This is a game-changer for women’s futsal in England. Having a national team to aspire to will pave the way for a new generation of players, inspiring girls who want an alternative to football and who can represent their country in a different format of play. One that makes them even better as players.
The Manchester women’s team competes in Tier 1 of the FA-backed domestic futsal series. BT Sport is broadcasting the women’s and men’s matches live under a three-year deal struck last year.
At youth level, the growth of futsal in England is supported by a sponsorship deal signed with Pokemon in 2019. Thousands of girls and boys take part in the national youth cup, which has been running since 2008.
When funding for the national team path was cut in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, the FA dismissed futsal as having only a ‘limited connection’ to their pursuit of a major tournament title at 11.
Two years earlier, Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, described futsal as “a key part of our strategy to grow women’s and women’s football” in a six-year plan, Fast Forward with Futsal, which included a promise to create a senior women’s team to compete in the 2021 UEFA European Women’s Championship.
It is understood that internal divisions over the approach to futsal still exist and that an external partner will be brought in by the FA to lead the national teams.
Futsal, the indoor game that originated in South America in the 1930s, is widely recognized as essential to the development of creative and intelligent footballers at youth level in countries including Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Russia and Iran, where it is the dominant game in schools and a professional sport in its own right.
The news comes days after Gareth Southgate said he felt England had failed to develop creative ‘playmakers’ through ‘youth football and academies’ as well as other nations.
UEFA is leading the way in pushing youth and women’s futsal alongside football. The third edition of the European Women’s Championships and the Men’s Under-19 tournament will take place next year. Spain has won all four tournaments.
Northern Ireland is the only British nation to have participated in the Women’s Euro qualifiers.
Fifa is under pressure to end its ‘deeply discriminatory’ approach to women’s futsal after a campaign to launch a strong Women’s World Cup in the men’s tournament in 2021, which was won by Portugal for the first time .