Women's futsal is at an exciting stage of its development – and is picking up pace every year.
Article top media content
“I could never imagine that a Women’s Futsal EURO would ever be created, so it is a dream taking part in it.” So says fired-up Spain goalkeeper Silvia Aguete, part of the team that won the inaugural tournament in Portugal three years ago. “The COVID outbreak prevented us from playing last year, so this year the competition is the key objective for the squad. I am very much looking forward to it.”
That last sentence feels like a slight understatement, given that this is a player who personally experienced the early days of women’s futsal. “I remember my first licence: it read ‘amateur player’, despite me training every day for years,” she says. “Now teams are becoming more and more professional – we are on a good track.”
UEFA revenue help
That is thanks in part to UEFA using revenues from its elite club competitions such as the Champions League and Europa League to support events such as this. Meanwhile, UEFA’s HatTrick programme shares revenue generated from the men’s EURO among the 55 national associations, each benefitting to the tune of €195m annually to develop all aspects of football, including futsal and women’s football projects.
The impact of this competition on women’s futsal is clear. Before the Women’s Futsal EURO was launched, there were only seven national teams in Europe. In a few short years that number has close to quadrupled, with the aim of reaching 30 for the fourth edition in 2024/25.
The progress of the men’s game provides the blueprint. Portugal’s victory in the Futsal EURO in Amsterdam in February was the culmination of an event in its 12th edition, with more than 25 years of history and entered by 50 of the 55 UEFA member associations. This is only the second time that the women’s version has been held, and already 24 nations have entered. There have been big strides, with a sell-out final and more than a million TV viewers for the 2019 event setting the standard.
“This competition can have a big impact on youngsters. It is important for the visibility of the sport.”
Men's futsal influence
The fact that Portugal is home to the men’s European and world champions helps to pull women into the sport. The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) announced in May that the number of registered female futsal players has increased by 30% over the past two years, while the number of competitions for them to take part in doubled between 2015 and 2020.
Nevertheless, the FPF is determined to do more. “We’re growing, but we can and must increase the number of players, especially at youth level,” said Pedro Dias, FPF futsal director.
The senior women’s team now play regularly enough that captain Ana Azevedo has reached 100 caps; her status within the Portugal set-up was shown when men’s captain João Matos mentioned her during his speech at the reception for the squad returning from the Netherlands with the Futsal EURO trophy. She flew out on the spur of the moment to watch the final in Amsterdam; Matos, meanwhile, is among the men’s players who have previously attended women’s games.
“At the European Championship, they will be there to support us,” said Azevedo. “Ricardinho saw our final in Gondomar in 2019 and I think more players were there. We already had a joint arrangement to exchange ideas. The truth is that the women’s futsal team was very happy with the triumph of the men’s team.”
Nations hoping for future success
There are nations without the same futsal foundations that are also looking to get involved. Germany did not have a men’s futsal team until 2016 and are still only 35th in the UEFA rankings. However, as the traditionally dominant European nation in women’s football, they are ambitious to achieve similar status in female futsal.
They have not yet played an international but they have invested in regional competitions, and the intention is to enter qualifying for the Women’s Futsal EURO in 2025. “I think we’re among the ten best nations in the world, even without a national team,” said Marianne Finke-Holtz of the German Football Association’s Futsal Committee. “Unlike in men’s [futsal], we don’t have to work our way up from the bottom. The sporting basis is there.”
Aguete, meanwhile, says that this year’s tournament will only help to recruit more players around Europe. “It can have a big impact for youngsters,” she says. “It is important to have these official competitions for the visibility of the sport.”
This article appears in the 2022 UEFA Women's Futsal EURO official tournament programme