Doug Cotter, our State Referee Administrator, reports on the state of Futsal.
Over President's Day weekend, while many NM referees headed to sunny, warm Phoenix for PDT, a Doug Cotter and Jeff Eschenberg headed to Kansas City for some Futsal training and received assignments at the Futsal Champion's Cup Super F league National Championships. It was terribly warm. In fact it was snowing when our flight landed, but by Sunday it was pretty nice. The other referees credited the weather to us coming and bringing it with us.
The principal reason for us going was to gauge where our referee program was and how the skill level of the players compared to the national scene. I'm happy to report that we're not doing too badly. There is not complete agreement throughout the referee community on many aspects of the Futsal laws. We were able to weigh in and discuss our situation and provide our opinions. It was never clear to me how many teams actually came to Nationals but it was played at four different venues about 10 to 15 miles apart. We saw three of the four venues. We should have seen all four but due to Doug's inability to read a schedule properly, we each missed an assignment. Fortunately we were with the assignor watching some men's open matches when he got a text indicating we were no shows! It worked out OK as they had some standbys. One venue was a gym on a community college campus and the other two were inflatable bubbles. It looked to us like the ages ranged from U9 through Men's Open. They had HSG and HSB (High School) divisions as well as U17 and U18. Not sure what the difference was.
On Friday night we attended a tournament rukes clinic and there was a special presentation given by Jason Karnac and Shane Butler. They are both FIFA Futsal referees from the US. The session opened with video from Jason's assignment as Referee 1 on the Soloman Islands versus Brazil match. Brazil won the match easily at 17-0 and ultimately went on to win the Futsal World Cup. Jason received 4 assignments at the World Cup (First, second, third referee and timer each once) and shared a story about a foul he missed due to positioning that broke a tie match and sent one team on to the next round. I find comfort in that situation. Whatever call I miss or make incorrectly, I don't feel good about it, but at least it's not in the world cup!
Jeff and I sat with Jason during a hotly contested Men's Open match between two hispanic teams. There were plenty of areas to exercise game management. It was very interesting listening to Jason's analysis and talked through the different foul selections the crew made. Later that night we watched a team from Toronto (Nationals???) play a local team. The team from Toronto was truly amazing and it was obvious the work they put into their game. Extremely disciplined and well coached.
We talked to the founders of the Super F league as they are local to the KC area. The have between 250 and 275 teams in their local league and it sounded as if they have seasons year around. The fee is $625 per team for an 8 game season. We have a way to go obviously.
All in all it was a pretty good experience to figure where we were and get some good ideas about training. It seemed to us that there were at least two teams in our local league that could have competed fairly well at Nationals. When our assignments came out we were not surprised at getting some all lower levels figuring it was Nationals and we didn't want to mess up too badly. But after seeing the play, it's obvious that Futsal is in its infancy in many areas. Many of the coaches still don't understand the rules, while many others are trying to make a living in this sport and have a very good understanding. There is clearly the same mentality from many coaches as in the outdoor game so it has progressed at least that far. One coach threatened to head butt a referee if he didn't start making better calls. He didn't see the rest of the game. In case you were wondering Jeff and never worked a match together and we did manage to each eject a coach cementing NM's future at the tournament. Mine was in a U12 boys semi final in which the winner was obviously going on to the CONCACAF finals. Turns out I was "a clown". He didn't see the end of the match either. Jeff wins the award for best of the two. His partner was never going to contain the coaches behavior so Jeff stepped in to help as first referee and told the coach to refrain from further comments. The coaches reply? "Ooooh, what are you going to do about it?" He didn't see the end of the match either. The division? U9G.
And so it goes.