Europe's futsal referees have been in Prague this week for their latest UEFA international course as the European governing body continues its comprehensive referee development and training campaign. UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 in Croatia – to be played in Zagreb and Split from 31 January to 11 February – was a key item on the agenda.
Forty referees from the three UEFA categories came to the Czech Republic, along with UEFA Referees Committee chairman and UEFA third vice-president Ángel María Villar Llona, members of the Referees Committee, referee instructors and observers, and training staff led by Belgian referee fitness expert Werner Helsen. The referees were joined by two match officials from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The new president of the Football Association of the Czech Republic (ČMFS), Miroslav Pelta, was also a keen observer.
The course involved a balance of theoretical and practical work, including a study of changes to the futsal laws of the game; the uniform application of these laws; and the referee communication system to be used at UEFA Futsal EURO 2012. The fitness test undertaken by the referees featured a 1,000m run plus speed and agility tests. UEFA also apprised the referees of the administrative tasks they must fulfil on duty, while AFC representative Yasuhiro Matsuzaki gave a presentation on the futsal structures in UEFA's sister confederation.
Referee instructor Pedro Galán Nieto told UEFA.com the young referees in particular would benefit from the shared experience in Prague. "The important thing for the young ones is to know how to act determinedly in the game, to grab opportunities and develop the game, and to take that experience in order to be the future of refereeing in Europe."
The get-together also highlighted the changes in futsal and its refereeing over the years. "It has changed completely," said Galán Nieto. "Why has it changed? Because the game has, and the modern-day futsal player is very different from the old days. That is why the futsal referee has had to develop in the same direction as the game. They play much faster nowadays. Therefore the physical role of the referee has become very important in the development of futsal refereeing.
"The biggest change in futsal is the speed of the game," he went on. "The players play very fast, the ball circulates faster on the pitch. This means the referee has to adapt to this speed and, in addition, have good communication and good team work with the other referee [of two]."
How does the role of futsal referees compare with that of their counterparts in the 11-a-side game? "The role of a futsal ref is very similar to that of an assistant referee in football," explained Werner Helsen, who also oversees Europe's 11-a-side referees and assistants. "For example, in terms of changes of activity, it is very demanding. In futsal a referee changes activity every two seconds between jogging, sprinting and sideways running. They go through 1.5km of high-intensity running on average, and also do 6–8km on average in a match, which is very comparable to the average football assistant referee.
"Perhaps in terms of visual concentration, futsal refereeing is even more demanding because of the speed," Helsen added. "Altogether, at the top level it is quite a challenge."
Course delegates certainly came away from Prague with plenty of positives and confidence for future assignments. "This event is very important because it gives us a chance to talk about cohesion and unity in the rules and also to meet with one another," said Czech referee Karel Henych, who welcomed the bonding process. "It is vital to have this gathering for the referees who will be part of the futsal EURO and also for the new referees as well."
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