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Online Sports Betting Odds: Players like Xavi and Iniesta have such great close control skills because they were brought up playing Futsal or Futbol Sala, as it's known in Spain - the only version of indoor soccer recognized by both FIFA and UEFA.
Futsal was created in 1930 and is now played by 30 million people in over 100 countries, making it the fastest growing sport in the world. It's extremely popular in Spain, where there are professional leagues and the national team, which has won the World Championship twice and the European Championship four times, sharing honors with Brazil as the best team in the world.
The basic idea behind futsal will be very familiar - it's five against five and most of the kit is the same. However, there are some important differences, which make the game a lot of fun and a great way of working on specific skills.
The field - Unlike regular indoor football, futsal is played on a marked out pitch with touchline boundaries. This means there are no walls or boards to rebound against and when the ball goes off the field, it's out of play. The ball is put back in play with a kick-in rather than throw-in.
The FIFA regulation pitch size is a maximum of 42 meters long by 25 meters wide with the minimum being 38 x 18 for internationals and 25 x 15 for all other games.
Playing in such a reduced area is ideal for working on close individual ball skills and also on one touch passing and receiving.
The Ball - In futsal the ball is made of leather and is smaller and heavier than a normal soccer ball - about a regulation size 3/4 - with a dampened bounce. Although there are no restrictions as to how high the ball can be kicked, this also means that the focus of the game is the feet rather than the head or other parts of the body.
Playing Time - Two halves of just 22 clock-timed minutes each also make for a fast-moving game. Plays are stopped when the stopwatch dictates so there's a sense of urgency similar to basketball as the end of the final period approaches.
Another similarity with basketball is that each team can take a one-minute time-out per half and so tactics and strategies, which change the course of the game, can be implemented.
The Teams - Teams consist of five players on each side but there are twelve players in the squad. Flying substitutions are made and players can come on or off even when the ball's in play. Sometimes a coach will change almost all his players during a time-out. This means that as a spectator, you don't only focus on the fantastic ball skills but also on the strategies employed.
Free Kicks - The majority of the reasons why direct and indirect free kicks are awarded are just like in normal football - fouls, handball, dangerous play etc - but there are a number of rules that apply only to the goalkeepers that are designed to keep the game moving quickly and stop time-wasting.
For example, the goalkeeper must not throw the ball over the half way line, touch back passes from team-mate with his hands or touch a back pass with any part of his body before it's crossed the half-way line or has been played by an opponent. He's also not allowed to keep the ball in his hands for more than 4 seconds.
Finally, just like in normal football, free kicks are taken from where the offending foul was committed. The big difference, though, is that indirect free kicks are also taken in the penalty area, which makes for some incredible nail-biting moments.
Futsal in Spain
The Division de Honor (Honor Division) of the Liga Nacional de Futbol Sala (Spain's National Futsal League), is the premier professional futsal league in Spain. It's one of the most powerful competitions of the World. Founded in 1989, the Liga Nacional de Futbol Sala league, which is played under UEFA rules, currently consists of 16 teams, including teams like Club Autos Lobelle de Santiago FS, Inter Movistar, El Pozo Murcia FS, Caja Segovia FS, Prone Lugo AD, MRA Navarra FS, Playas de Castellón FS and FS Cartagena.
Each team of every division has to play with all the other teams of its division twice, once at home and the other at the opponent's stadium. This means that in Liga Nacional de Futbol Sala the league ends after every team plays 30 matches.
Like many other leagues in continental Europe, the National Futsal League takes a winter break once each team has played half its schedule. One unusual feature of the league is that the two halves of the season are played in the same order — that is, the order of each team's first-half fixtures is repeated in the second half of the season, with the only difference being the stadiums used.
Each victory adds 3 points to the team in the league ranking. Each drawn adds 1 point. At the end of the league, the winner is:
- The team that has most points in the ranking.
- If two or more teams are level on points, the winner is the team that has the best results
- If there is no winner after applying the second rule, then the team with the best overall goal difference wins.
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