Futsal is one of those sports that is very popular, but still finds itself under the radar. We all have experienced playing Futsal or Street Soccer at some point within our lives. This type of the game is where you can showcase your technical abilities. Ronaldinho, Neymar, and Cristiano Ronaldo are fine examples of soccer players that played Futsal, but rolled over those technical abilities over to the big pitch. Don’t have a Futsal court near you? How about a tennis court? Still nothing? Fine, a parking lot will do!
As you already know, as a player, you do not need much in order to play. If you are a ball, then you are all set! With that being said, the method for determining popularity is extremely difficult as there is insufficient data. Popularity can also be determined by Interest Per Capita vs Active Players. I’ve chosen interest per capita for this piece. Data has been sourced from worldwide search engine volume data.
Futsal, more commonly known as Fútbol Sala in Spain, takes first place for popularity. This was a surprise to me. Spain is a long way away from the home of Futsal and also not often mentioned in media references to Futsal. However, nobody can deny the success and development of the game in Spain over the last 2 decades. Since the rise of the game worldwide, the Spanish National team has been the second most successful national team in all major competitions. Twice winning the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2000 and 2004. A large part of their success can be contributed to numerous well-established leagues. The Primera División established in 1989 is the highest level in Spain and boasts some of the best talents in world Futsal. Some notable Spanish futsal players are Javi Rodriguez, Kike, Sergio Lozano, Luis Amado, and Paco Sedano.
With the backing of the local clubs, this will only continue the growth of the sport in and around Spain.
In second is the country that popularized the sport, Brazil. In the volume of active players, Brazil would certainly win the first spot. However, with a population of 208 million, Brazil takes second when players per capita is considered. The game is considered to have been introduced here in the 1940’s due to a lack of available football fields Many of Brazils mega star footballers today were once active Futsal Players. Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Juninho, Robinho, and Neymar are a few of many talented former futsal players. The game being so prominent in Brazil, the National Futsal team is now the most successful team in the World winning 5 of the last 8 FIFA Futsal World Cup competitions. In World Cup appearances Brazil has only lost 3 times. The most important loss being a 4-3 defeat to Spain in the 2004 Futsal World Cup held in Taiwan. Notable Brazilian futsal players include Falcão, Neto, Tiago, Tobias, and Schumacher.
France is a powerhouse in the world of football, so it’s no wonder Futsal has taken rise in France, not to mention that street soccer has become a lifestyle is most parts of France. The game was introduced to the country in the 1970’s and the French Football Federation (FFF) estimates the number of participants in the sport exceeds 200,000. There are two Futsal federations in France. The aforementioned French Football Federation as well as the French Futsal Association. The highest level of Futsal played in France is the Championnat de France de Futsal. The team Sporting Club de Paris hold the most title wins with 4. The France national team has never qualified for the Futsal World Cup or UEFA competitions. In the Futsal world rankings, France sits 19th place in 2018. Some notable players include Kevin Ramirez, Sean Garnier, and Wissam Ben Yedder to name a few.
Portugal has received worldwide Futsal recognition due to the incredible performances of players like Ricardinho. He’s the only player in the game to have won “Best Player of the World” 5 times! He was also the top goal scorer in the 2016 Futsal World Cup with 12 Goals. His goal haul, however, was not enough as Portugal finished 4th in the tournament. The Portuguese National team have never won the FIFA Futsal World Cup but have been tough competition every tournament. In league play, Portugal’s top division is Campeonato Nacional. It was founded in 1990 and currently has 14 teams. Like many other countries, Portugal has their share of big-name players with starts in Futsal. The biggest name with a Futsal background is Cristiano Ronaldo. He says this about his past experience “During my childhood in Portugal, all we played was futsal.” he said. “The small playing area helped me improve my close control, and whenever I played futsal I felt free. If it wasn’t for futsal, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.”
Picking 5th place was probably the hardest choice. From my research, there wasn’t a clear winner for 5th. That said, due to the size of the Indonesian population and the large volume of Futsal related search data coming from there I’ve chosen Indonesia for fifth place. The highest level of play in the country comes from the Indonesia Pro Futsal League. It was founded in 2006 and has 16 futsal teams. The Indonesian futsal team ranks 53rd in the world and has never qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup.
While Indonesia may never make it on the spotlight for the 11 aside national team, this will be a great opportunity for them to take stardum on the international Futsal stage.
Honorable Mention – Italy
The choice for 5th place was difficult and the alternative to Indonesia would have been Italy. Unique to Italy, Futsal is often referred to as “Calcio a 5” which directly translates to 5-a-side football. Since 1983 Futsal has been played here in an organized capacity. Italy’s top division is Serie A with 13 teams playing for the title. The most successful club Luparense have won 6 titles since the leagues founding in 1983. The Italian national futsal team has won 2 major trophies. They were the 2003 UEFA Futsal Championship winners and also secured first in the UEFA Futsal Euro in 2014. Their FIFA ranking is 4th in the world. Their best ever Futsal World Cup finish is second place in 2004.The choice for 5th place was difficult and the alternative to Indonesia would have been Italy. Unique to Italy, Futsal is often referred to as “Calcio a 5” which directly translates to 5-a-side football. Since 1983 Futsal has been played here in an organized capacity. Italy’s top division is Serie A with 13 teams playing for the title. The most successful club Luparense have won 6 titles since the leagues founding in 1983. The Italian national futsal team has won 2 major trophies. They were the 2003 UEFA Futsal Championship winners and also secured first in the UEFA Futsal Euro in 2014. Their FIFA ranking is 4th in the world. Their best ever Futsal World Cup finish is second place in 2004.