For those who don't know, futsal is a form of small-sided football on a hardcourt, typically played indoors, with a smaller ball than football which is heavier in weight and less bouncy.

Each team has five players with rolling substitutes throughout a 40-minute game separated into two halves.

The smaller sized court means the game is heavily involved around the skill and technical ability of the players in a fast pace moving match.

I spoke to Stuart Cook recently who told me about how he thinks futsal is not at the level it should be at.

Stuart Cook, once labelled as "England's best" in futsal, has and continues to have a brilliant career in the challenging sport, achieving massively for clubs such as Wrexham and Manchester and featuring many times for the Three Lions.

Now coaching at Bolton futsal club, and with an aspiration of getting back into the England squad following the announcement of the national side's return to the court, Cook discussed many of the talking points the world of futsal has to offer.

  • Why is futsal not where it deserves to be?

Stuart Cook expressed his opinions on the reasons for futsal not gaining the traction he feels it should be getting.

"Football is too big in England for futsal to really get to where I think it deserves to be."

A main reason he touched on was the fact that there is so much money in football, going all the way down to the lowest tiers of the English pyramid, which could be spent elsewhere.

Stuart played for a number of years in non-league football.

"I genuinely believe that outside of probably the conference, the FA should stop clubs paying players in the non-league pyramid because I've lived it.

"I know how much money is floating around in it, and my honest opinion is that it's wasted money and wasted resource for everybody who's involved in it."

The Englishman made it clear he does not want rid of non-league football as he knows and understands people enjoy football at that level.

"They've got local clubs, so that side of it, I I would never want to take away from communities.

"All I'm saying is if that resource and that money that was floating from the National League downwards, bearing in mind that there's probably 25 leagues all encompassing in the North from from that pit, would that resource be better put into other sports?"

Stuart Cook explained how the funding and resources which are put into these lower tiers of football could be re-invested and used to better sporting facilities which could host not only futsal, but many other sports.

 

"If they could build an indoor venue that could host futsal, handball, netball, basketball, all of a sudden that became their community and that could become their home.

"Would more funding help?

"Yes, I think that goes without saying.

"I think any sport who can get funding is going to improve and do I think it's going to happen, not necessarily."

Fundraising has become a big part of the money that Stuart Cook has gained within his time at Bolton, explaining the money he gets from these events are put back into the development of the club as a whole.

"I'm not somebody who wants the sport to ask for handouts.

"If there's funding available and it's justified, go and get it and great, it'll improve the youth provision that we can give for futsal and will improve the adults teams.

"If we all did that, if we all improved our own teams, our own clubs and made them as professional as we can be, then hopefully over time people can start to see the benefit and start to want to put money into it and see the sport grow."

  • Facility issues

Stuart Cook spoke about the problems he is facing at Bolton with training and hosting matches, failing to find a suitable place in Bolton for the club to work at, but having to play and train in Manchester, Liverpool and Salford which forces players to travel.

"You're talking probably less than 100 courts across the country, but that's why it's very difficult for the sport to continually grow.

"We need more help from Sport England, the Football Foundation, the FA and anybody else who can ultimately build us more facilities and more venues."

The England international compared the state of futsal in England to futsal in Europe, specifically in Spain, where the facilities there are free for clubs hosting all sports to use and how that allows for sports such as futsal to develop at the right pace.

  • Is the standard dropping?

Stuart touched on the organisation of the sport improving as of recently, but just before the recent announcement of the England national team returning, how the lack of the England squad has caused a drop in the performance levels across the country.

"I think without the England team, the level on court has dropped which probably sums it up in a nutshell.

"We've lost a lot of individuals, myself probably included, from putting the effort in to play.

"Hopefully with the England team coming back the quality on court can improve."

Cook discussed that a big factor of the drop in standard over recent years is due to a shift in the experience of the players at the top level of the sport.

 

"At the moment it feels like it's a sport that's in a transition. 

"There are a handful of senior players throughout the league, sort of from 28 upwards maybe, and then the bracket between 20 and 28 is very few and far between.

 

"Then you've got a lot of young players who have been committed to the sport for a while and they're very good, but they're also not fully developed.

 

"So if the England team hadn't come back now, I think that bracket of senior players over the next two years would have completely fallen away and the sport would have been in a really strange position of being primarily under 23's.

"In England at the moment it, it feels like it's gone back to being a developing sport, whereas I think four or five years ago we got to a point where actually it it had developed to a level were there was a real pathway."

  • Youth development

Although expressing the importance of the experienced players within futsal, Stuart Cook did explain the significance of the youth coming up through the ranks now.

One young player coming through is Stuart Cook's son.

Coaching his son for many years, Tyler Cook now plays for Bolton futsal club regularly under his father.

"He's my favourite player and I will probably always say that.

"I genuinely believe that he's incredibly talented at the game of futsal.

"He is very much like me in that he's got a lot of technical ability and he loves having the ball at his feet and he's really developed physically over the past 12 months.

"Tyler must get his speed from his mum because he's faster than I ever was and his understanding of the game is good.

 

 

"I think he could be one of the best players in the country if he really wants to over the next 10 years."

VAVEL Logo
About the author
Sebastian Mellis
I am 19 year old currently studying Sports Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire in year 1 of the course. I am a football and darts lover and have a passion writing about sport.