BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
GERRY McMONAGLE is adamant Futsal could help Scotland cultivate a new generation of sporting stars – as the national team boss urged school chiefs to introduce the growing game to the curriculum.
Futsal will be showcased on Scottish soil when the Home Nations Championship kicks off at the Oriam Performance Centre in Edinburgh, with McMonagle’s side hosting Northern Ireland on Friday night before facing Wales on Saturday and England on Sunday.
While Scotland’s team was only established in October 2014, Futsal is already a staple around the world, with popularity in Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Italy, where it is seen as a vital developmental tool for young players to step into the full-sized game, as well as a major sport in its own right.
McMonagle believes the game – a five-a-side version of football with 20-minute halves, unlimited substitutions and a smaller ball – would be an ideal addition to the school curriculum, bringing a host of transferrable skills and producing a swathe of technically gifted youngsters.
Outside school hours, he also asserts it could help to assuage the current burning issue of kids not being able to afford football training, due to the more modest spaces required to host sessions.
McMonagle said: “I’d like to see it introduced into the school curriculum and I think a lot of teachers would welcome someone coming in to provide Futsal training. It’s a sport that develops communication, fitness and life skills and you can go onto play any sport with that grounding.
“I really believe it’s something kids should be playing from an early age and, in many ways, that comes back to us. If we can promote the game and inspire people to play, then it will grow in Scotland.
“When we were younger, you had kids out on the streets, setting up goals and playing football. For a number of reasons, that doesn’t happen as much.
“We need to create avenues and ways for young people to play sport – and a lot of them are being priced out of it. So let’s create a happy medium and say ‘here’s a school hall that’s not being used, let’s use that space for Futsal’, which can be played in sports centres, school halls or other smaller areas.”
While Scotland are in their infancy in the game, McMonagle is adamant it could prove an invaluable tool if it takes off on these shores – with the qualified sports lecturer dreaming of playing his part in helping the senior football side end their exile from major tournaments.
Scott Smith of Elgin and Albion Rovers’ Craig McLeish have been named in the squad for the upcoming fixtures as they juggle codes, while Dundee striker Faissal El-Bakhtouai comes from a Futsal background – his move to Dunfermline in 2012 was the first time he has signed for a traditional football team.
McMonagle: “It’s important to see Futsal as a sport in its own right and, first and foremost, we want to develop young, talented Futsal players.
“However, there are undoubtedly skills that can transfer and if players choose to take that tool-kit across to football then hopefully it stands them in good stead.
“It’s been so many years since Scotland got to a World Cup so I thought ‘what are you doing about it?’ So if we can help to inspire and coach a generation of young Futsal players, who may decide to take those skills to football in the future, then we might play a part.”
Scotland will be looking to better last year’s third place finish when they lost out to England in the opening game, were defeated 5-2 by eventual competition winners, Wales, before battering Northern Ireland 8-2 in their final fixture.
McMonagle added: “The team is in its infancy and we know we are far from the finished article, but we are looking at ways to improve and by introducing younger players to the squad – we have two 16-year-olds involved this time – and playing good opposition like this Home Nations tournament is pivotal.”