In an interview with FIFA.com Cristiano Ronaldo confessed that, “If it wasn’t for futsal (5-a-side football),
I wouldn’t be the player I am today”. Messi made a similar admission in his own FIFA.com interview explaining, “As a little boy in Argentina, I played futsal on the streets and for my club. It was tremendous fun, and it really helped me become who I am today.” There is no better endorsement for the 5-a-side format than that of arguably the two greatest players in the history of football.
Messi and Ronaldo are, however, not the only international superstars who honed their skills playing 5-a-side football.
Widely considered as one of the greatest player of all time, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, more commonly known as Pele, is the highest scoring player in professional football history. He’s won an numerous awards including World Player Of The Century, Football Player Of The Century, and FIFA’s Ballon d’Or. Growing up in poverty, Pele started playing football from a young age using stuffed socks or a grapefruit as a replacement for a ball he could not yet afford. In his mid-teens, he joined a futsal team called Radium in his hometown of Bauru. He recalls “It’s a lot quicker than 11-man football. You have to think really quickly because everyone is close to each other.” According to Pele, the confidence he gained playing 5-a-side was invaluable to his football career.
- Xavi Hernandez:
Spanish all-star midfielder, Xavier “Xavi” Hernandez Creus was the first player in Barcelona’s history to play 150 international matches and is considered to be one of the best midfielders of all time. When discussing the benefits of 5-a-side football with UEFA, he explained that, “Perhaps in regular football you cannot appreciate the talent. Everything is more physical. But in 5 a-side, you have small details of quality, class and tactical aspects.”
- Neymar Jr:
Sao Paulo native, Neymar (Neymar da Silva Santos Junior), made waves by winning four consecutive Player of the Year awards by the time he was 21. Like the other players on this list, Neymar honed his skills playing futsal on the streets of his home town. In a recent interview, Neymar explained that, “5
a-side football helps a lot because you need to think quickly. It’s a more dynamic game and today in Europe there’s not much space so you need to think quicker.”
Much like many Brazilian football stars, Ronaldinho (Ronaldo de Assis Moreira) grew up in a poor neighbourhood and turned to 5-a-side in the streets of his hometown at a very young age. Many football experts point to his start with 5-a-side in developing his unique playing style that confused his opponents and delighted audience globally. Discussing his time playing futsal, Ronaldinho explained “It’s played in a very small space and the ball control is different to regular soccer. To this day, my ball control is pretty similar to a futsal player’s control.”
As the Betway 5s League continue this weekend, teams from around Lagos will compete for their place in the playoffs. Will an international star get his start at the tournament? Only time will tell. Get all the Betway 5s League match schedules, results, league standings, player stats and video highlights when you visit the Betwav 5s League website.