Up for the Task
Newly Appointed Futsal Coach Opens Up About Sport’s Rapid Growth in Canada
The ball is just as round, but it doesn’t roll on grass, it rolls on hardwood floor. Many of today’s soccer players owe their success to the little-known sport of futsal.
Household names such as Andrés Iniesta of FC Barcelona and Brazilian legend Ronaldinho were able to develop their unique and captivating style in the confned space of a futsal court.
On Monday, Feb. 8, Soccer Canada appointed Montreal native, futsal expert and former national team player Kyriakos Selaidopoulos the men’s national futsal team head coach.
Futsal is a branch of soccer that differs from the traditional 11-a-side game. It’s five-a-side soccer (including the goalie) and is played on a smaller pitch, compared to its more well known 11-a-side counterpart. The game is separated into two 20-minute halves and unlimited substitutions. As opposed to 11-a-side, futsal has no offside rule, so an attacking player can stand by the opposing goal and never be penalized.
Over the past two years, structured futsal leagues have been picking up in Quebec. The leagues are run by the Quebec Soccer Federation, with FIFA rules. Selaidopoulos has seen himself become one of the leading roles in futsal’s expansion within the province, although with the announcement, his attentions are sure to become national.
During the early stages of futsal’s development in Quebec, the Quebec Soccer Federation hired Selaidopoulos as their expert on the sport.
Mike Vitulano, an employee of the QSF, works closely with Selaidopoulos and is another one of the prominent figures in futsal’s rapid rise to popularity.
“Quebec is thrilled that Kyt [Selaidopoulos] is going to be representing the country. Being a Quebec coach, it’s great for the province,” Vitulano said. “The idea here is to build something long term, and hopefully it’s well accepted.”
Last year saw both Vitulano and Selaidopoulos introduce the first season of the Première Ligue de Futsal du Québec, a high-standards league, to recruit futsal players—both men and women. From there, they were able to create the first-ever Quebec teams. With futsal developing, and more funding being put into the sport, the future looks positive.
“Futsal is getting bigger,” Selaidopoulos said. “It’s getting bigger by the moment. The thing is everybody needs to come together.”
With futsal rapidly increasing in popularity, Selaidopoulos’s appointment as head coach can only have positive effects. Vitulano believes that Selaidopoulos, a former player for the Montreal Impact, as well a representative of Canada in both futsal and beach soccer, will bring a direct experience to the national team.
“He’ll bring that player/coach type of approach, you know, having lived it,” Vitulano said.
With the Coupe Futsal du Québec that took place on Feb. 26 and 27, Selaidopoulos has a keen look at the talent present. Despite being involved with Quebec futsal, he said that it isn’t about provinces, but about Canada.
“I’ll put a team where the best are from, and if they’re [not] from Quebec, then they’re not from Quebec,” Selaidopoulos said.
Despite Selaidopoulos’s involvement on a provincial level, he’s done his homework. The European Championships were also held this past month, and Selaidopoulos used that to look at how other continents across the globe function.
Canadian soccer recently revealed that the national futsal team’s training camp is set to take place in Vaughan, Ont. from March 18 to 20, ahead of the 2016 CONCACAF—the soccer federation representing North and Central America—Championships.
Selaidopoulos will set out to find profile players to fit into team Canada. With such a short period of time to prepare, he said he will seek out players that catch on fast.
“It’s stressful, for sure. It’s a big job,” Selaidopoulos said. “I will take profile players that understand and that believe in the program for the future.
“I might leave behind players that are better, but since we have a short time of preparation, I’m going to have to go with players that understand the game plan very quick,” he continued.
Selaidopoulos enjoys uniting players into a team. That concept of togetherness is what he and Vitulano started in Quebec, and what he wants to bring to the national team. It’s the idea of provinces and players working together, to achieve their objective to qualify.
Canada is set to face the United States in May. The winner of the two-match series will qualify for the CONCACAF Futsal Championship, which runs from May 8 to 15 in Costa Rica.