Circumference: between 62 centimeters and 64 centimeters. Weight: 400 grams to 440 grams. Air pressure: between 0.6 bar and 0.9 bar. A football? Sure, but not an ordinary one. A flop – for futsal. It’s smaller than a field football, filled with less air and once designed to make the game in the room even faster and more dynamic.
The European Futsal Championships for the Netherlands start on Wednesday evening, with a game against Ukraine in Amsterdam. During the tournament, organized by the Netherlands, players will play with an Adidas ball. One that hall internationals Manuel Kuijk, Karim Mossaoui, Oualid Saadouni and Mats Velseboer can speak to. They have been training with it for months, to get used to it. The Dutch team uses about twenty copies during practice sessions in Zeist. The ball feels good. Better perhaps than the balls of their own clubs, Hovocubo from Hoorn and FC Eindhoven.
The internationals know all too well that there is a difference in the floppy balls that are used in the hall. In the Netherlands, every indoor football association can decide for itself which brand is played. „Do Manuel and I play with them” – Saadouni points to Velseboer and Mossaoui – „then we play with a Derbystar. At our place in Eindhoven we play with a Nike ball.”
One bounces more, is slightly lighter, even rolls differently – details that the teams’ play needs to be adjusted to. These differences are caused by the materials used. “One has a soft foam layer around it, which you can squeeze a little more,” says goalkeeper Manuel Kuijk. “Other balls are partly made of leather and therefore harder.” They are then differently in his hand, stick a little more or not.
Mindful in Uruguay
The game of futsal was invented in 1930 by the Uruguayan gym teacher Juan Carlos Ceriani, in the year that his country became world champions on the field. He called it indoor football, football in a hall. With different rules and fewer players, but still with a field football. The ball would not be adapted to the sport until decades later – in the Netherlands the flop ball was introduced in 2001 as a fixed match ball in indoor competitions. A smaller, more compact size, with less bounce, intended to speed up the game. And to make shooting and scoring less easy and safer: with a field football, an indoor keeper’s life was not always sure about the goal.
So it became a flop ball, the bladder of which is filled with microfibre. By default, it looks heavier than a field football, but in reality it is not. The ball does drop faster than its equivalent on the court, however, once it has reached its peak in the air. The bounce that follows must be about thirty percent less than with a normal ball, in order to continue as a flop. Or as the rules of the KNVB football association prescribe: if the ball falls from a height of two meters, the first bounce may not be higher than 65 centimeters. The ball therefore collapses and thus requires a different ball handling, an adaptation of the players’ technique.
Also read: this report about youth and square football players, the hope of Dutch futsal
A long, high ball, such as is often used on the field, is not easy to play with. “If you want to give the ball a long time in the hall, you really have to hit it at the bottom. On the field, it is enough to hit the ball in the heart to give it height,” said Oualid Saadouni, captain of the Dutch team.
You also have to kick a futsal ball harder than you think, and dare to shoot further. “You have to kick through the ball, preferably with your instep,” says Karim Mossaoui, who played on the field for Excelsior, among others. Then it is best to steer the ball and let it slide as tightly as possible across the hall floor.
I have more bruises than on the field
Manuel Kuijk goalkeeper Orange
Especially with early teenagers and younger children, it is clearly visible that a floppy ball feels heavier. “They do not easily get a flop across the width of the field,” says Saadouni, who trains boys aged twelve and thirteen. “I remember that as a twelve-year-old I also had trouble hitting the bar with the ball,” says Velseboer.
The ball is widely used on the street. “We used to play with it on squares too,” Moussaoui says. The football players, the players with an action, they would like a flop. The ball stays close to you, doesn’t want to bounce off your foot. But the youth who like to shoot hard would rather have a field ball, says Saadouni.
‘You can go either way’
The secret of the ball is in its utility, the players say. “Because the ball won’t bounce, we have better control,” Mossaoui said. A good assumption is enough to be able to play straight away. Foot over the ball, head up. Looking for a teammate, or ready for the one-on-one situation.
“I think if we used a normal ball, the ball would be out of play more often than in play,” says Saadouni. “Because you put your foot on the ball, you can go in all directions. On the field you often have an assumption with the inside of your foot, then you are already limited in your options,” says goalkeeper Manuel Kuijk.
The fact that the players in front of him have better control over the ball makes anticipation more complex for the keeper. “You always have to make sure they don’t retrieve the ball before they shoot. Something that is not so easy with a bigger ball.” The advantage is that with a flop it is less easy to shoot hard, especially from a distance. But when the ball is shot, the ball also crashes hard into his body. “I have more bruises than I had on the field as a goalkeeper,” says Kuijk.
And headlines? Mossaoui: “Fortunately there are no wingers to give high crosses.” Saadouni starts laughing. “If you headline too much in the room, you’ll get a headache, I’m sure.”
Program Dutch team
The UEFA Euro Futsal 2022 will be held from January 19 to the final on February 6.
The matches will be played in the Ziggo Dome (Amsterdam) and MartiniPlaza (Groningen). The public is not welcome in the group stage due to the corona measures. That may change later in the tournament. 30,000 tickets had already been sold before it was announced that no spectators were allowed.
The Netherlands will play against Ukraine in the group stage (January 19), Portugal (January 23) and Serbia (January 28).
The Netherlands last participated in the European Indoor Football Championship in 2014. At the time, the Orange squad was eliminated in the group stage.
The budget for the tournament is eight million euros. Two million euros will be paid by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the remaining amount has been transferred by the European football association UEFA.