In Depth: Cheshire Futsal Club
Back in September, The National Futsal Series (NFS) was officially launched in England.
The competition takes place up and down the country and is the latest initiative designed to increase participation and raise awareness of the small-sided version of the beautiful game.
There are currently 24 men’s teams and 11 women’s teams taking part across the NFS’s five divisions.
Flying the flying for our county is Cheshire Futsal Club, who have both a men’s and women’s side competing.
The team are led by Head Coach and Co-Founder Richie Jones, who only got involved with Futsal back in 2011. Having been injured playing football, Richie decided not to risk going back to playing the sport and instead opted to find out more about futsal.
Since getting involved, he has started a local adult futsal league in Wrexham – which he ran for five seasons – and now has the challenge of helping Cheshire Futsal develop their provision across a variety of ages.
Richie may have arrived from a footballing background, but he is clear about the benefits that futsal can provide.“Futsal is fast and there are plenty of touches of the ball. As a coach, I think the intensity is huge and people love that,” he said.
“For the kids, I think they are starting to learn some of the benefits that come from playing futsal, including the decision-making aspect of the game.
Leading the way for Cheshire Futsal’s provision are their adult male and female teams, who compete in the aforementioned NSF.
The men's team are top of the Tier 2 North table with five wins and a draw from their opening six games - as well as a goal difference of +52 - while the women's team are second in their division with just one loss all season.
Despite the competition being in its infancy, the structure is clear. Each round of fixtures takes place at a different venue, from Chester’s Northgate Arena to the University of Nottingham.
Richie is confident that the format and structure of the competition is going a long way towards bringing new eyes to the sport.
He also hopes that it will allow Cheshire Futsal to play at the highest level for many years to come.
“I can actually see the benefits,” he said. “We hosted on November 3, and I think we had around 100 fans there throughout the day. There’s a lot of interest and I really see how the host days’ work.
“I would love to see us go up to the league above. Our venue capacity restricts us at the moment, so we have to explore every opportunity as our players need to be playing at the highest level.
“Hopefully we can push on in summer, if we win the league of course!“The women’s project has also been fantastic. We’ve been really competitive even though we’ve been a little short on numbers, so it has been really pleasing.”
Despite playing in a competitive open-age environment, success at Cheshire Futsal isn’t just determined by their adult futsal provision.
In fact, developing a pathway for younger players is far more beneficial for the club as they strive to increase numbers and participation across each age group.
“We have an under 6s, under 8s and we’re launching an under 10s after Christmas. The under 8s have just been to their first tournament in Warrington and did really well there.,” Richie said.
“You can just see the enthusiasm, and the game is growing all the time.
“There’s a clear pathway for the players, and they can see senior players representing their countries. They have got the opportunity to go and represent the home nations, which is a real enticing factor to be honest.”
With a clear structure in place for aspiring juniors, and two adult teams flying the flag superbly in competitive futsal, the future is extremely bright for Cheshire Futsal, not to mention the sport as a whole across Cheshire.
So, after their successful start, what is next for the club?
“We’re really proud of what we have achieved at the club in our first 18 months,” said Rob Goring, Cheshire Futsal Co-Founder. “We set out with the ambition to compete at the highest level of the national league for both men and women.
“We knew when we formed the club that we had the core of squad that could compete, but we’re pleased that we’ve been able to attract and recruit both new players and players from other clubs.
“Our philosophy is to bring young players through which is why starting our youth programme was really important to us. This was always our long-term plan.”
Richie Jones added: “We’ve also got our futsal leagues coming onboard. We’ve got four age group leagues and that’s going to start soon.
“We’ll be running it for all the grassroots teams in the area, so that will be a massive step for the club.
“I’d like to see the women’s team do well in the futsal series too. Maybe I’m being a bit too greedy with all of that, but we’ll see what happens!”