• Pivot Futsal

EXCLUSIVE FEATURE: Women's Futsal: The Current State & Path Forward

Updated: Jan 21

Washington, DC, USA - January 21, 2019 | State of Women’s Futsal


In this Pivot Feature Article, we travel around the globe to multiple stops including Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Spain and the United States. Our objective? ...take a closer look at the women’s side of Futsal to identify the current status, highlight milestones to celebrate and ultimately, bring awareness to the challenges we face in building the sport of Futsal with both women and men on a level playing court.



We are ecstatic to feature and draw from five leaders’ exclusive interviews with Pivot Futsal to drive our joint mission in driving women’s Futsal forward. Massive thank you to each of the following individuals for their support and initiative to increase women’s Futsal awareness, participation, quality, infrastructure and many more areas of emphasis. The leaders interviewed include:



  • VANESSA SOTELO, SPAIN WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & AD ALCORCON FSF, Professional Player

  • MAROUN JOSEPH EL KHOURY, LEBANON WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & SPORTING CLUB 1875, Manager & Head Coach

  • ROXY KAMAL, UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & GAMER FUTSAL SCHOOL, Head Coach & Founder

  • GABRIELLA KOTA, HUNGARY WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & VIS FONDI CLUB (ITA), Professional Player

  • JEN SHORT, UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & GAMER FUTSAL SCHOOL, Assistant Coach & Founder


Editor’s Note: I hope to do this topic justice and spark discussion to build a path forward for women's Futsal. We must strive to support and lead initiatives with an emphasis on equal opportunities for women & men and rising girls & boys when considering decision-making and impact across the sports industry. I also hope this feature brings awareness to barriers that may have gone unnoticed. Additionally, it is impossible to cover the status of all regions across the globe in solely this article but we will aim to focus on these 5+ regions with the interviewees here and then we may extrapolate our findings and assumptions. We’re confident that there are many more perspectives and contributions that could expand upon this feature and we welcome all discussion to continue building the women’s game and the sport of Futsal, globally. Thank you for reading and considering how you can support.


Milestones & Moments to Celebrate


We’ve reached 2020. Futsal continues to build momentum globally. The womens’ and girls’ side of the game has seen many milestones to celebrate over the last year, decade and beyond.

A few competitions at the highest level of women’s Futsal over the last few years include featuring the introduction of the UEFA Women’s Futsal EURO, the 2018 FIFA Youth Olympics featuring Women’s Futsal, and the 1st Women’s Grand Prix --- a glimpse of top-tier events added to the slate of global elite women’s Futsal.


“The first official Women’s EURO has undoubtedly marked a before and after in women's Futsal -- especially for Spain, as we were crowned champions,” said Vanessa Sotelo, Spanish international and MVP of the inaugural UEFA Women’s Futsal EURO.


“It was an event that will be remembered in our sport and hopefully will serve as a boost to new championships, improving conditions, and in short, the growth of women’s Futsal.”



These recent strides extend across many inputs of the sport including the growth of female referees, technical report research specific to women, and history being made across the board with federations prioritizing the inception of women’s Futsal national teams (ie. here, here and here).

Reflecting on the momentum in women’s sports beyond Futsal, it’s evident that the broader society is onboard in the attention to detail and there are powerful vocal leaders throughout aiming to move the needle.


Thinking more broadly, there’s no doubt the 2019 Women’s Football World Cup served as a breakthrough event along with other recent developments such as gender equality requirements set by CBF & CONMEBOL, the new WNBA CBA setting history, and numerous spokeswomen + powerful visuals to support in motivating the current and next generation of rising women (ie. here, here and here).


Professional Women’s Futsal Leagues


As we noted a few of the major women’s Futsal international tournaments and events that support the overarching mission in the previous section, it’s also important to recognize regions that have invested in annual league competitions and the needed infrastructure to support the movement.


A few that come to mind (not limited to only these):


A quick highlight reel below from the recent Quinta dos Lombos vs. Sporting CP match in the Campeonato Nacional de Futsal Feminino (Portugal) to celebrate:


Some regions have relied on a scaled back women’s Futsal structure out of necessity leaning on the school systems or University league & competition pathways (ie. Lebanon, Brazil and others).

Meanwhile, other women’s leagues have come and gone over the past decade, and most have yet to embrace any structure at all to date.


Launching, executing and maintaining a professional Futsal league (and doing it the right way) is no small feat and ultimately, has many requirements for long-term sustainability.


Grassroots Futsal & Supporting the Girls’ + Womens’ Pathway


While the structure and opportunities at the top of the pyramid are vital, ultimately the grassroots and pathway for girls’ youth Futsal participation are a primary focus area to fuel growth and the future of the sport. We asked our women’s Futsal leaders to reflect on the current state of girls’ Futsal with an eye on investment, access and opportunities.


As expected, anecdotes and findings varied by geographic region but aligned on inequitable emphasis in both (1) Futsal vs. football, and (2) boys vs. girls youth programming pathway. Let’s take a look at our Futsal leaders perspectives…


[LEBANON via Maroun El Khoury]
“I believe it is the responsibility of the Federation and all clubs and coaches to collaborate together to be fair with both Futsal and football.”
“The Federation, clubs and coaches are not focusing on youth Futsal. We have a football league for the women in Lebanon under 15, Under 17 and Under 19 along with the senior league. But nothing for women’s Futsal.”
“Further, We don’t have pure futsal clubs in Lebanon. Most of the Futsal Clubs have both football and Futsal and they gave advantage always to football. We have academies only for football. Mainly Futsal players are formed at schools and Universities and they join the Futsal clubs later.”
- Maroun El Khoury
[HUNGARY via Gabriella Kota]
“Fortunately, Hungary does have a good youth system for men’s Futsal at a small scale, and I can say that for the girl’s side too. Many clubs do great work in youth development.”
“However, at the youth level, the two sports are definitely battling, football sooner or later taking most of the talented Futsal players. Youth participation appears to not be growing, very little new teams & clubs, and innovation is limited.”
“Currently, the investment in girl’s Futsal is practically non-existent. There is money available for the development of the youth for clubs generally, but most clubs don’t use it for women’s sport, especially not Futsal.”
- Gabriella Kota
[SPAIN via Vanessa Sotelo]
“There is growth in girl’s Futsal in Spain - although slower than girl’s football.”
“Ultimately, we can't compare with the men or boys in any way, it would be a mistake. We have to think about growing ourselves, about living up to each opportunity and striving to have the conditions we deserve.”
“It is also important that in addition to playing - the women’s players themselves need to be more involved in coaching education, training girls, driving summer camps...all these paths will help build the sport, make women’s players more visible and encourage girls’ participation.”
“That being said, in schools Futsal is a sport that can be practiced daily, since almost all schools have a futsal court. So it is an easily accessible sport, available to any child.”
- Vanessa Sotelo
[United States of America via Roxy Kamal & Jen Short]
“I don’t believe I stand alone in my belief that Futsal is wildly and unnecessarily disconnected in the United States.”
“We have a lot of work to do in exposing the game at a grassroots level for both players and coaches alike. To me that begins where the kids are – schools. I am aware of a couple initiatives moving now in the U.S. on this front but not certain of results.”
- Jen Short
“I am looking forward to the day where this younger generation of female players who have grown up playing Futsal, finally have the chance to compete at the international stage.”
“From a youth standpoint, the number of teams playing Futsal has increased and the level of play has definitely gone up. However, because the focus in the United States is on soccer (football), Futsal still takes a backseat and is used mainly as a development tool to help train outdoor players. Because of this, we are behind in our Futsal development compared to international teams/players.”
- Roxy Kamal

Current Challenges & How We Can Make an Impact?


Futsal is behind, globally, and women’s Futsal is even further behind. We’ve alluded to quite a few challenges thus far but let’s take a moment to compile these isolated, geographic or systemic issues for us all to consider and navigate as we nail down a path forward for women’s Futsal.


Here are eight (8) challenges with thoughts/benefits on overcoming below:


(1) FIFA Women’s Futsal World Cup - The highest level of international competition is essential to encourage the pathway, infrastructure, and investment in women's Futsal. If this does not exist, Federations are less likely/unlikely to support the women’s game and ultimately, young girls and women along the path will not aspire to achieve it. We have seen other organizations host tournaments to bring international teams together like the AMF and IFA which are great but we can all agree on the stature, reach and impact that FIFA holds and should contribute to women's Futsal.



(2) Comprehensive Federation support and sanctioning of women’s Futsal - It is incredible to see some Federations committing to the launch of a women’s National Futsal team/program. Many still have not or just starting to consider future planned resources to be allocated. The French Federation recently reported some quality stats surrounding their Futsal infrastructure and promise a women’s program on the horizon but we still await France's entrance. Similarly, the United States have launched a campaign for their Men’s Futsal National team ahead of the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup qualification yet zero recognition of a direction for the women’s program. Arguably two of the most successful women’s Football programs in recent history.


(3) Cultural, political and systemic “male sports” mentality - Likely the most frustrating challenge on the list. The archaic mentality that holds onto stereotypes, assumptions and disrespect, unfortunately, still exists in regions across the globe. Even in steps forward like the earlier mentioned notes on the CBF’s policies, there remains lingering viewpoints and circumstances holding efforts back. A unified approach forward is necessary.


(4) Women representation in leadership, administrative and coaching positions - Diverse and educated leadership results in informed decision-making to benefit all. Women striving to achieve leadership roles along with men supporting the initiative will inspire many and support equity across the board.


(5) Investment and resources allocated - We’d be remiss to assume that all can be done overnight and comes at no cost. Change takes time. That being said, some of these efforts can be done with urgency. And with discussions of meaningful change on the way for women’s football, it directly aligns with women’s Futsal milestones we are striving for as well.


(6) Equality in girls youth Futsal programming, opportunities and access - The mindset is simple...any new programming initiative implemented should be executed at the same time for both boys and girls. Even with women’s Futsal currently behind, at the very least this mentality will support the equal path forward. Data shows that girls are more likely to drop out of sports due to a variety of factors. Can we support and keep both audiences in mind in the decision-making process?


(7) Access to Facility Court Space - Multiple notes from interviewees on the challenge of women’s teams and youth teams having training time at quality facilities only when scheduling permits and doesn't conflict with the men’s schedule. Also recommendations on prioritizing investment in outdoor Futsal courts to help build the inventory of court space across regions. And broadly worth considering the court usage by other indoor sports (ie. handball, basketball, volleyball, etc.).


(8) Futsal popularity, media coverage and promotion - The last highlighted challenge here points toward the ongoing battle that Futsal faces in the shadow of the current juggernaut, football -- for eyeballs, participation, investment and engagement. Can both sports operate at the same time? 100%. Do they overlap? Of course. The competing forces between the two sports will continue to rise over time and presents the challenge of finding creative ways to co-exist.



It's evident that major strides have been made in women's Futsal over the past decade while many questions still need to be answered to support a positive path forward. We've covered on some key opportunities on a global level that FIFA & others have to make an impact with the introduction of a FIFA Women's Futsal World Cup, and on a national/regional/local level where every Federation should be establishing a Women's National team + youth national teams, aiming to fuel a professional league, and working with key stakeholders to support infrastructure, investment, leadership, facility access, the mindset and more. We hope this feature article encourages many to think about ways they can contribute to the mission. As always, we welcome additional anecdotes and perspectives to support so feel free to comment, email or message to build on the discussion.


Massive thank you to Vanessa, Maroun, Roxy, Gabriella and Jen here for their contributions that have helped us reflect on a productive direction for all to consider at the global, national, regional and local levels. Let's keep building!



BIOGRAPHIES








VANESSA SOTELO, SPAIN WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & AD ALCORCON FSF, Professional Player

Vanessa Sotelo is a current professional Futsal player (pivot) for the Spain Women’s Futsal National Team and for AD Alcorón FSF club which competes in the Primera División Femenina de Futsal in Spain. Sotelo was named the MVP of the inaugural 2019 UEFA Women’s Futsal EURO where Spain lifted the cup as champions. Sotelo also has previous professional Futsal playing experience at Ciudad de AS Burgas FS and Ponte Ourense.








MAROUN JOSEPH EL KHOURY, LEBANON WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & SPORTING CLUB 1875, Manager & Head Coach

Maroun El Khoury oversees the Lebanon Women’s Futsal National team program and serves as a youth Futsal coach Sporting Club 1875 who compete in the Labanese National Division 1. Most recently, El Khoury led Lebanon to compete in the 2nd AFC Women’s Futsal Championship in May 2018. El Khoury also has past coaching experience with Labanese universities, academies and bank pathways along with previous playing background with Sporting Club 1875, Saint-Joseph University and Club Sagesse.








GABRIELLA KOTA, HUNGARY WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & VIS FONDI CLUB, Professional Player

Gabriella Kota is a current professional Futsal player (pivot) for the Hungary Women’s Futsal National team and for Vis Fondi club which competes Serie A2 in Italy. Recently, Kota led Hungary in the inaugural 2019 UEFA Women’s Futsal EURO to two wins and a draw in group play. Kota also has past playing experience in the Hungarian Women’s 1st League (NBI).








ROXY KAMAL, UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & GAMER FUTSAL SCHOOL, Head Coach & Founder

Roxy Kamal serves as head coach of the United States Women’s Futsal National Team supported by US Futsal. Additionally, Kamal also leads Gamer Futsal School as a Founder & Managing Director and San Diego Surf as the Girls Technical Director. Kamal has high-level playing experience with the USWFNT and D-1 soccer at San Jose State University, and is passionate in building women’s Futsal domestically & globally. Roxy Kamal works closely with fellow women’s Futsal leader interviewed for this feature article, Jen Short.








JEN SHORT, UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM & GAMER FUTSAL SCHOOL, Assistant Coach & Founder

Jen Short oversees business development, program management and partnership relations across her sports business efforts for a variety of organizations. Notably, Short leads as Team Manager & Assistant Coach of the United States Women’s Futsal National Team supported by US Futsal. Additionally, Short also holds leadership roles with Gamer Futsal School as a Founder/ and Urban Soccer Park as Managing Director. Jen Short works closely with fellow women’s Futsal leader interviewed for this feature article, Roxy Kamal.








MARK WYSOCKI, Pivot Futsal, Founder & Chief Editor

Mark Wysocki is an accomplished sports business & Futsal professional with 10+ years in the sports industry supporting some of the world’s leading corporate brands and rising small businesses. Wysocki has been connected to the Futsal community over the years across the United States & internationally as a consultant, professional Futsal player, program director, strategist, coach, and advocate of the sport.

366 views