Phenomena and paradoxes of futsal in Belgium

We continue to monitor the development of the favorite kind of sport in the countries – potential participants of the Baltic Futsal League. Today the first broad strokes will present Belgium – the leader of the European and world football. It’s a country where both old and young play futsal. 

Belgium has burst into the super elite of world football right before our eyes: since 2015 the team has steadily occupied the top line of the FIFA ranking. And if earlier the success of the Belgians was associated with the influence of the Dutch school of total football, then the current rise is exclusively related to the bright personalities, whose names are on everyone’s lips. Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Axel Witsel – this attack group is able to crush any defense by means of non-standard actions based on futsal skills, because each of the above-mentioned stars has passed  an excellent school of this game. 

Belgian futsal was one of the first to reach the professional level:  just a few years after the appearance of sport in Europe in the late  80’s they began to play the national championship in Belgium. Moreover, the State Department of Education introduced futsal into the compulsory school curriculum, and in commercial companies it was considered a mauveton not to participate on the weekend in any of many tournaments. It has gone so far that in the late 90’s the Belgian branch of the Ford factory in Genk began to hold an annual two-day futsal marathon inviting professional teams from all over the world.  For this purpose they rent two exhibition arena with a huge area on which several standard courts were divided. These grounds were surrounded by modular stands with lots of mottled advertisements, music full blasted, foamy drink for spectators flowed like a river, and non-stop relegation matches were held with the participation of hundreds of teams. In the finals, with a full house the Brazilians, Spaniards, Russians and some team from Belgium, who managed to invite world stars under their banners for a couple of days, were sure to 

play.  As a result, in Belgium a star team was born which in the early 2000’s became one of the leaders of the European futsal. Action-21 from Charleroi made a mess in various international tournaments right up to the Champions League. If in the finals of 2003 and 2004 the team lost, then in 2005 the whole of Charleroi celebrated the victory of its favorites in the coolest club tournament of the Old World. It was during these years that young Witsel and company practiced futsal day and night in order to become the first in world football today.

But here’s a paradox: today the Belgian national futsal team has no high achievements. And the national championship is hardly in the top ten strongest in Europe. The most likely reason is that for some time the Belgians consider futsal exclusively as a show. Lots of technically gifted guys from African and Middle-Eastern countries filled the Belgian clubs.  Their attitude to modern futsal tactics and strategy is in a state of initial understanding. For all the beauty of performing feints and tricks with a ball, the young Belgian masters are unable to comprehend, for example, the skills of competent defense. However the spectators are delighted with the circus performances on the court and it’s enough for this young growth today. Obviously, it will take some time before the current futsal players want to conquer Europe again.

As for our days, the Dutch champion of the last season was the club Hovocubo from Horn located in the north of the country. In the final play-off series to two victories Hovocubo was twice stronger than De Hommel. In the first match Hovocubo won 2:1, and in the second game after a draw 6:6 in regular time everything was decided in a penalty shootout.  It’s curious that Hovocubo won the Dutch Championship 33 years later, and in general this club was founded in 1966 as a volleyball one and only later it began to develop futsal, winning the national championships in 1972 and 1976. 

To the credit of the Dutch, whose current championship was stopped on October,10 because of the coronavirus epidemic, Hovocubo passed in the 1/16 Champions League season 2020/21. In the preliminary round, in Norwegian Trondheim the Dutch champion dealt with local Utleira very severely 11:0. However the next round is likely to be the last for Hobocubo, because the draw chose one of the strongest European teams – Spanish Inter as an opponent for the Dutch.