“Oh, you play futsal. What is that again?” “Well, it’s a bit like 5-a-side football, but better.”
I can’t recall exactly how many times I’ve had that conversation in just one year with University of Nottingham (UoN) Futsal, but it sure has been a lot.
I must confess that a year ago I had no idea what the sport was myself. It has little (if any) TV coverage, the FA National Futsal League was founded as recently as 2008 and the England team has never qualified for a World Cup or European Championships.
It’s hardly anything to shout about.
The men’s Varsity match turned heads, showing everything futsal has to offer
However, what we saw last Tuesday night at Clifton Campus shows just how far the sport has come. 500 people packed out the sports hall with people actually being turned away just before kick-off.
And what they saw did justice to the sport.
Finally on the official Varsity Series stage, the UoN women’s team annihilated Nottingham Trent University (NTU) 11-2 in what became a procession towards victory. But it was the men’s match that turned heads, showing everything futsal has to offer.
Outstanding team goals, firm tackles, skilful set plays, impressive saves, individual brilliance and, of course, a Trent comeback from 4-1 down to win 6-5.
All of this created a spectacle that everyone in the crowd was glued to. If you were to take your eyes off the court for a second, you would miss something outstanding. Regardless of the unfavourable result, everyone linked with UoN Futsal must be thrilled that the match gained such interest.
This was not a one-off either. UoN have played out some thrilling matches with NTU since the club’s conception just three years ago, with the intercollegiate rivalry spurring each other on to improve. Indeed, improve they have.
Interest will only rise, the player pool will increase and the quality will inevitably come with that
NTU will compete in the BUCS Premier Midland Division next season. They beat the UoN 2nds 6-3 in the play-offs, having pipped the 1sts to the Midlands 1A title after beating them 7-6 in another thrilling encounter earlier this season. UoN’s National League side also just missed out on promotion this season. The Varsity match capped off an exceptional season for both clubs.
Even though the men’s Varsity result wasn’t exactly what they wanted, the match must be seen as a huge success for the club. Interest will only rise, the player pool will increase and the quality will inevitably come with that.
In a few years time, I don’t think anyone will be asking me what futsal is. Maybe someone should give the Capital FM Arena a call…
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Images: dgtl Concepts photographer Jack Gunter