KATHMANDU, August 12: The craze for futsal is increasing in the country lately, with people of any age, be them children, youths and elderly, getting attracted to the sport.
Its certain and distinct features like the sport that can be played even in a limited space, and for a comparatively shorter time period, with a small team, are luring people, especially in city areas in particular where there is a lack of enough space for outdoor sports due to rapid urbanization. "Futsal is becoming an appropriate choice and an alternative way of fun for urban people of any age," said Rajan Lal Maharjan, operator of Kumari Futsal Thamel.
First introducer of the sport in Nepal is reportedly Nawang Nima Lama, who constructed a pitch and started futsal business at Thamel in 2011. He got this idea from his Thailand visit in 2009. "When I visited Thailand, I saw people playing the sport at home. I later came to know about this sport and introduced it here," he said.
Having seen it flourishing as a business in Thailand and Singapore as well Lama decided to introduce this new sport in Nepal. "I started this business after long thought," he said. Now he is pleased to see this enterprise flourishing, but rues the fact that most of the futsal courts do not meet international standards.
The sport has taken a stride over the time since he reportedly introduced in Nepal in 2011. Although the number of futsal pitches across the country is yet to be ascertained, there are around 100 courts including in cities in particular like capital Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Pokhara, Hetauda, Banepa, Dharan and Chitwan, a study said.
According to a thesis carried out by Ekendra Bahadur Khadka on 'Futsal's development and challenges in the Kathmandu valley', people between 16 and 20 years of age are getting more attracted to the sport. However, people aged between 6 and 57 are found to play this sport.
Hiring a futsal court will cost one between Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per hour. There is a little discount during day time however. Approximately Rs 1 billion is reportedly invested in the sport across the country. On an average, around Rs 15 million is needed to start a futsal business including for the construction of the court.
History of futsal and rules
The origin of the sport is traced back to Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1930 when Juan Carlos Ceriani introduced it. It is also referred to as mini-soccer. Over the time, it garnered popularity throughout South America, particularly in Brazil. While Brazil continues to be a futsal hub of the world, the sport is now played all over the globe.
The first international competition took place in 1965 with Paraguay claiming the first South American Cup title.
Other six South American Cups were organised throughout the period between 1965 and 1979, when Brazil won all of them. The first Futsal World Championship was held in Brazil under FIFUSA (before its members integrated into FIFA in 1989), when the hosts won. FIFA has organised futsal world cup eight times so far.
Futsal is both an indoor and outdoor game. Its pitch is 40 meters long and 20 meters wide. Each team has five players including a goalkeeper. The game is played in two halves for full 40 minutes each consisting of 20 minutes, with a fifteen-minute break in between.
Some of its rules are similar to soccer while others are not. A penalty shootout takes place six meters away from the goalpost. Ball cannot be passed back to the goalkeeper. Goalkeeper cannot hold the ball for more than five seconds. The members of substitutions are not restricted, and it can be made at any time. The goal cannot be scored from a free kick and there is no off side.
Regulation of futsal in Nepal
The All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) is now working in forming a national futsal team for the first time, targeting the coming AFC Asian Futsal Championship Qualifiers scheduled for coming October, said ANFA officials. A committee formed six months ago under the leadership of ANFA member Ramesh Rayamajhi is tasked with selecting a national team, through a league. "We are preparing to hold a league to form a national team. Discussions in this regard are underway with associations and business entrepreneurs related to the sport," said Rayamajhi.
It is not possible to accommodate all futsal clubs in the competition, he however said.
Only those who are registered with enough infrastructures meeting international standards can participate.
The league will start from the second week of August, he said, adding that the selected team will leave for Iran for a competition there.
Nepal is participating for the first time in the international futsal competition with the country falling under Group A in the qualifiers, together with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.
A total of 19 individuals have been trained as futsal coach with the help of the Asian Football Association and the ANFA said it will soon conduct training for a referee.
Tug of war between futsal associations
There are three futsal associations operating in the country including Rayamajhi-led Futsal Associaiton formed by the ANFA, the Nepal Futsal Association chaired by Devkumar Adhikari, formed by the National Sports Council and Raj Maharjan-led the National Futsal Professional Association registered in the Kathmandu District Administration Office.
Adhikari expressed ignorance about the ANFA's preparations to hold a league for choosing a national team. "We are ready to organise a league in cooperation. We do not want to get the matter into dispute by establishing parallel organisations related to the sport," he said.
Saying they were not an obstacle to the expansion and development of the sport, Maharjan said they were positive about establishing an umbrella organisation. "We are ready to contribute for the development of the sport. We are ready to reconcile if given honourable position," he said.
He however said the ANFA's efforts to form a national team in the eleventh hour are not reasonable. "Tie-sheet has been out for the qualifiers. Where is the national team? It is ANFA's weakness. We are ready to lend a helping hand if the ANFA asks for it as it is a matter of pride to represent the country in an international tournament," he however said.
While new entrepreneurs are hesitant to invest, already established ones are worried however about the future of their business as they said the business is mushrooming rampantly, and competition is high. "It seems that futsal business is mushrooming more than the players itself lately, thus inviting more competition," said a futsal entrepreneur. RSS