Story: Football

Page 8. Futsal

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Futsal is a five-a-side version of football normally played indoors. It is played with a smaller, lower-bouncing ball on a netball-sized court with no rebound walls or nets. Futsal is the only five-a-side football that is officially approved by FIFA and New Zealand Football.

There were nearly 30,000 futsal players in New Zealand in 2018, a huge jump from just 5,000 players in 2011.


Futsal originated in the 1930s in Uruguay and Brazil, where two versions of limited-numbers games were played. The International Federation for Futebol de Sala (‘indoor football’) was founded in Brazil in 1971. In 1989 FIFA took over as the governing body and abbreviated Futebol de Sala to Futsal. The first FIFA Futsal World Championship was held in the Netherlands the same year.


Futsal helps develop players for the 11-a-side game, with the necessary ball skills, large number of touches and pace forcing players to utilise fast reflexes and make quick decisions. The energetic, end-to-end, non-stop nature of futsal makes it an attractive spectator sport. There are professional leagues in Russia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Argentina.

National teams

The Futsal Whites were formed in 1988 and in 2023 were ranked 56th in the world. The women’s Futsal Ferns were formed in 2017.

Indoor football

While not officially sanctioned by New Zealand Football or FIFA, indoor football is a popular leisure activity in New Zealand, especially in the main cities. While futsal can be played indoors or outdoors on a hard court, indoor football is played on artificial turf and usually uses walls for rebounds. Indoor football can be played with a normal football.

With no governing body, playing numbers are unknown. There are many leagues, including business leagues with matches played at lunchtime, and evening competitions that range from social to serious. Most leagues have mixed or men-only teams.


Chris Sinclair and Antony Riley are FIFA-accredited futsal referees. They have been called up to a number of FIFA tournaments, including the 2021 Continental Futsal Championship and the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania. Chris Sinclair has been a FIFA futsal referee since 2014 and refereed at the 2016 Futsal World Cup in Colombia. He has also officiated at Oceania Football Confederation events in New Caledonia, Fiji and Auckland, and at the World University Games in Kazakhstan. Antony Riley started refereeing futsal in 2012, gained his FIFA Futsal Badge in 2016 and refereed at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

How to cite this page:

Neill Atkinson, Steve Watters and Alida Shanks, 'Football - Futsal', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 April 2024)

Story by Neill Atkinson, Steve Watters and Alida Shanks, published 5 Sep 2013, reviewed & revised 7 Jun 2023 with assistance from Alida Shanks