Futsal or Football: Distinguishing between the two sports

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By Jimmy Patrick Alunyo


What is a futsal sport?
Futsal is a football game played on a hard court, smaller than a football pitch, and mainly indoors. It has similarities to five-a-side football. Futsal is played between two teams of five players each, one of whom is the goalkeeper. Unlike in football, unlimited substitutions are permitted in this game and the game is played only for a duration of 40 minutes, 20 minutes each half. The futsal ball size is 4, and an ideal futsal ball should weigh 390-490 grams.


Futsal comes from Spanish word fútbol sala or fútbol de salón and from Portuguese futebol de salão. What that means is “indoor football” and “football of saloon”, but a more literal translation is “hall/lounge football”.

During the sport’s second world championships held in Madrid in 1985, the Spanish name fútbol sala was used. Since then, all other names have been officially and internationally changed to futsal. The naming was due to a dispute between FIFUSA (the predecessor to the AMF) and FIFA over the name of fútbol. FIFUSA registered the word fut-sal in 1985 (Madrid, Spain), since then, FIFA has also started using the term futsal. The name has been translated into Italian as calcio a 5 (literally 5-a-side football) or football sala and French as football de salle.


Futsal” started in 1930 when Juan Carlos Ceriani, a teacher in Montevideo, Uruguay, created a version of indoor football for recreation in YMCAs. This new sport was originally developed for playing on basketball courts, and just like any other sport, a rule book was developed and published in September 1933 for its management.

It’s movement across the globe

The YMCA spread the game immediately throughout South America. It was easily played by everyone, everywhere, and in any weather condition, without any difficulty, helping players to stay in shape all year round. It was for this reason that João Lotufo, a Brazilian was convinced to bring this game to his country and adapt it to the needs of physical education.

The most attended futsal match in history was played on 7th September 2014 on Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brazil’s capital Brasilia between Brazil and Argentina in front of 56.483 spectators.

Governing bodies

The two most important governing bodies of futsal are the Asociación Mundial de Fútsal (AMF) and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). AMF is the successor organization to the original governing body. FIFA later took an interest in futsal. However, talks between FIFA and AMF to reconcile governance were not successful. This is why FIFA organizes its own separate competitions.

But the truth of the matter is, ever since its introduction into the world of sport, the competition has spread across countries. It has been adopted by almost all countries, including our very own Uganda and as I talk right now the tournament is ongoing and it has fans already everywhere in the country.

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