Every two years global sports get a boost with the arrival of the winter or summer Olympic Games, and next month will be no exception as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games are set to kick off in South Korea. One sport that seems to fall off the radar, despite its widespread popularity, however, is futsal.
FIFA estimates that 30 million people worldwide play futsal, developed in Uruguay in 1930 and originally known as fútbol sala in Spanish, meaning “indoor football”, compared to over 200 million who play football (soccer).
Similar to football, the game is played by two teams who are to kick a round ball into a goal net. But futsal teams are comprised of five players each and play on a hard court, normally indoors, delimited by lines.
Futsalplanet.com ranks individual futsal players and national teams. According to its 2017 Umbro Futsal Awards 2017, released January 10, one country from the Caspian region made the top 10 list, with Iran coming in at number 4. The Iran Under 20 national team ranked seventh.
Iran also clinched spots in the top 10 lists in the categories for best national team coach, the best player and the best goalkeeper.
Iran’s head coach Mohammad Nazemalsharieh was chosen as one of the three futsal coaches among ten nominees alongside number one Josè Venancio Lopez Hierro from the Spanish team and the second place winner Diego Raul Giustozzi from Argentina.
Nazemalsharieh, a 49-year-old retired Iranian futsal player, led Iran’s national team to a victory in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that was held in Turkmenistan in September. The win was its fifth consecutive for the games.
The team also won the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Futsal Championship 11 times, the most recent being in 2016; and claimed third place in FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2016 under Nazemalsharieh’s guidance. In 2015, he won silver medals in the Grand Prix de Futsal with the national futsal team.
Hossein Tayebi Bidgoli from the Iranian national team came in at number five amongst ten futsallers in the Best Player of the World category. Alireza Samimi and Sepehr Mohammadi Kamalabadi were ranked seventh and eighth respectively, for Best Goalkeeper of the World.
Umbro Futsal Awards picks the best futsal enthusiasts on an annual basis. More than 200 futsal experts voted in this year’s rankings.
While futsal is not a sport in the main Olympics, it will make its debut in the Youth Olympic Games later this year in Buenos Aires, Argentina.