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'Fantastic' start to this season's futsal league

MORE than 120 young footballers descended on South Devon earlier this month for the opening date of this season’s South West Youth Development Futsal League.

As well as representatives from host club Saints Southwest, the event also welcomed Under-9 and Under-10 Academy players from Southampton FC, Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City and Bristol Rovers.

The tournament at Paignton Academy was the first of four dates for the league, now in its third season, which pits some of the very best Foundation Phase footballers in the South West up against each other.

Bristol Rovers came out on top in the Under-9 age group, with Plymouth Argyle taking home the trophy in the Under-10s.

“Generally it went really well," said event organiser Adam Hayman. “I must say, it’s a credit to the clubs, coaches and players in terms of keeping to timings and making sure everything runs really smoothly.

“We try to give everyone a good brief to ensure that everyone understands what we’re doing and why. Everyone is on board with it which is really important and it aids the events running as positively as they do.

“The key observation was how competitive it was across the board with all clubs, and that was the feedback we got not just from us as coaches, but the players as well. They enjoy the competition but it’s played in a brilliant spirit, which is great to see.”

Hayman, who is a director at Saints Southwest, also outlined his pride in the host teams’ performances on the day.

He added: “The Saints Southwest teams did brilliantly, as they tend to do. It’s great for those who are selected and invited to enjoy playing in a different format and test themselves in what is a very competitive format. They have to show a lot of resilience, as do the oppositions, and the players did us really proud.”

Lee Hodge, Head of Academy Coaching at Plymouth Argyle, was there with some of his young Pilgrims.

He said: “The day was fantastic for the boys and really helped them develop across the four corners. For example, from a technical/tactical perspective, the feedback from the players was that they believe futsal has helped them develop their ability to disguise their actions further.

“One individual said how he realised the importance of looking and using his teammate as a decoy to fake to pass and then dribble. Another individual discussed how with limited space he had to really be sneaky with his movements by looking to run one way and then quickly changing direction to receive the ball.

“Psychologically and socially, the U9s discussed how although they had lots of the ball, they were not calm enough in front of goal as they knew it was only a short game and were desperate to win.

“They then started to lose their focus and lost a couple of games 1-0. However, towards the end of the day they said that they stopped thinking about the end result and just focused on their techniques. As a result, they started to improve their finishing.

“Physically, the players said how tired they were at the end and how it is so important to use their body effectively when receiving under pressure.

“Our players want to do lots more futsal and I know a few parents have said how much they can see that futsal is developing the boys.

“I believe the events have improved over the past year and I am positive that by keeping to all of the rules of futsal such as the back-pass rule it will only benefit our players even more so.”

Ben Whatmore, U8-U10 Cell Lead Coach in Exeter City's Academy, added: "Our players had another great experience at the Saints Southwest futsal tournament. This is something the players really enjoy and look forward to.

"Futsal provides an excellent environment for the players to be challenged technically to find different solutions with their ball mastery and 1v1 skills, providing appropriate challenges for all players, though particularly in the FDP.

"This futsal tournament offers a safe, friendly and competitive environment for all the players. We look forward to the next event in December!"

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