Yukon futsal players ready for 1st Arctic Winter Games kickoff
Sport similar to indoor soccer but uses heavier ball
When the 2016 Arctic Winter Games kick off in Nuuk, Greenland on Sunday, there will be a new sport on the roster. Futsal replaces indoor soccer.
Futsal is played in a gymnasium but unlike indoor soccer, there are no plywood boards for players to rely on to keep the ball in play. Instead, painted lines mark the boundaries. If the ball goes out, players have just four seconds to kick it back in.
The Arctic Winter Games announced four years ago it was dropping indoor soccer in favour of futsal.
"We wanted to make the game consistent," says Ian Legaree, technical director on the Arctic Winter Games International Committee.
"There were dozens of different variations [of indoor soccer] between jurisdictions participating in the games," he says.
"Futsal is a recognized [sport] with international rules."
Futsal is the only official form of indoor soccer approved by FIFA, the international soccer body.
Ball is heavier but play moves faster
"Players have to move really fast," said Edgar Musonda, coach of Yukon's junior boys team. "They have to be precise with their passing and accurate with their shooting."
Team Yukon members started playing the fast-paced sport in the fall.
"It's very different from indoor soccer," said Tyler Milton, 15, of Yukon's Junior Boys team. "Personally, I like it better. It involves a lot more thinking about what you're doing. You have to think two or three plays ahead."
Milton competed in indoor soccer in Fairbanks, Alaska, at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. He says futsal is helping to develop his soccer skills.
"The ball is a lot heavier and it's a lot smaller," he said. "You have to make sure you make good contact with the ball, otherwise the pass is going to be pretty weak."
Coach Musonda said futsal is similar in pace to hockey and basketball, but less physical. There's no shoulder checking allowed.
"That one is a no-no. The checking, like in hockey, is not allowed," he says, "If they have five fouls, than it goes to penalties. So physical contact and pushing and check-ins are not allowed."
Malorie Hanson, 16, likes the non-physical aspect of futsal. She's on Yukon's intermediate girls team.
"You don't have to worry about getting hacked or anything so you can be really technical and make quick plays and stuff so, I really like it," she said.
Hanson's teammate, Jamie Joe-Hudson, 16, said she's looking forward to their first real competition playing the game.
"I'm excited. I think we'll do well," she said. "We've been playing together for a long time. [It's our] second or third Arctics, so I think we're ready to win this one."
Coaches and players say Alberta North and the host Greenland are the teams to beat.