Futsal’s an odd sport.
Essentially a form of indoor football, it focuses on skills, improvisation and the promotion of close-knit team play. Played in, but not limited to, Hispanic and Eastern European countries, futsal is often used to develop young players so that they can shine in the 11-a-side game and don’t necessarily just focus on the long ball tactics. Cristiano Ronaldo is one famous proponent of the game and it has occasionally been brought up that the individual British FAs would benefit from nurturing the sport.
So when the preliminary round of the 2016-17 UEFA Futsal Cup (futsal’s equivalent of the Champions League) took place last week and teams from England, Wales, Scotland and Gibraltar all went out at the first time of asking, it keenly puts into perspective that futsal isn’t our game. It continues a trend of group-stage exits, which had gladly been interrupted when Baku United, previously England’s top team, secured passage into the second group stage and even secured a win against more experienced opponents. But we don’t look close to achieving that again.
England’s National Futsal League restarts on September 11th with other national competitions running throughout the winter. It remains to be seen whether or not we can start aiming a little higher – could qualifying one of our national teams to the FIFA Futsal World Cup be such an ambitious goal?
It’s going to be a nervous UEFA Champions League group stage for Celtic. They’ve qualified thanks to a good first leg in their playoff match against Israel’s Hapoel Beer Sheva, but the reverse away fixture proved a lesson in how not to defend a 5-2 lead. Celtic conceded a goal either side of the interval, but they will need to show much improvement if their first main round appearance in three years isn’t going to end with zero points.
Today will be the turn of Manchester City, who will similarly defend a 5-0 aggregate lead over Romania’s Steaua Bucharest but are deemed to be much more likely to progress.
In the opening stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Wales plays host to Cardiff Met. Ladies’ group. Things have gotten off to a perfect start, the local team beating NSA Sofia of Bulgaria 4-0. Not such good news over in Finland, as Northern Ireland-based team Newry City Ladies lost 11-0 to Danish opponents Avaldsnes IL. With only the top team making it through to the knockout stages, they stand little chance of progressing.
The watered-down World Rowing Championships continued yesterday but it was mainly a day of repechages, second chances for a few of the British rowers to get into semi finals. Gemma Hall took one of the places in the Lightweight Single Sculls, her time of 7.51:970 enough to get her back on track.
GB’s Lightweight Men’s Quadruple Sculls team of Charles Waites-Roberts, Jamie Copus, Jamie Kirkwood and Zak Lee-Green also made it through their repechage in a time of 5.52:440 but their event seems them safely through to their main final on Saturday.
A few all-England bouts in squash’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open 2016 (that’s a bit of a mouthful, if I was actually saying it out loud, that is). In the men’s draw, former world number one James Willstrop beat compatriot Tom Richards 3-1 to set up a tough second round clash against eighth seed Tarek Momen of Egypt. However, Chris Simpson (1-3 against top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy, Egypt) and Alan Clyne (0-3 against Momen) failed to qualify.
Most of the Brits are in the bottom half of the women’s draw, but brought together English pair Victoria Lust and Sarah-Jane Perry, the latter of which won a marathon 3-2 match to face Amanda Sobhy, the 7th-seeded American in the next round.
Following Scarborough’s annual one-day cricket festival, Yorkshire remain in a decent enough position in their County Championship match against Nottinghamshire. Although scuttled out for 282, Yorkshire have pegged back Notts to 38-2 at the end of the first day, the last wicket a combination from former England internationals Adam Lyth and Tim Bresnan.
Elsewhere, Surrey are chasing a similar score against Lancashire and remain 50-0. Hampshire are still in after day 1 with a score of 281-6. Warwickshire managed to ravage Durham for 207 all out but already find themselves 25-1 after the early loss of Varun Chopra.
Chris Froome recognised that there will be tougher challenges that usually only he can overcome, so crossed the line alongside his main rivals in Stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana yesterday.
Both he and Peter Kennaugh, who offered a valiant effort to keep up with the Movistar train, remain in the top ten overall, 4th and 9th respectively. Simon Yates is in 15th, 2 mins 8 seconds behind the lead of Darwin Atapuma (Colombia). Further down the GC are Scott Thwaites (70th) and Hugh Carthy (169th).