Futsal: NAIT’s hidden sport 

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Sports

NAIT’s soccer season ends in October, but that’s not the end of the year for much of the team. Several players move on to playing futsal–a smaller version of indoor soccer with five players on each team. NAIT’s futsal teams began their season in January. The men’s team made it to third place, while the women’s team made it second in their division before losing in the championships.

According to United States Futsal, the word “futsal” comes from “the Spanish or Portuguese word for “soccer”– FUTbol or FUTebol, and the French or Spanish word for “indoor” — SALon or SALa.” It has many similarities to indoor soccer, but uses rolling substitution and a smaller and harder ball that’s more bouncy than soccer. Futsal is a professional sport; there are national and international championships. It’s also played in a small space, which means it takes great technique and skills to play the game–a great reason why some pro-soccer coaches use it to develop their players skills for 11 vs. 11 soccer. 

The men’s team had a great start to their season, going 4-1 in January. They won 6-0 against Portage College, with another big win, 6-3, against Lakeland College. Their one loss came against Keyano College, who went undefeated in the ACAC North Division this futsal season. February saw the Ooks go 2-2-1. Their one tie came against Portage College, with the game ending 1-1. They had a big win to end the season against Northwestern Polytechnic, winning 5-1. This win put their overall season record at 6-3-1, earning them third in the ACAC North Division. Only the top two teams make it to the ACAC championship, so the Ooks just narrowly missed their opportunity. But it wasn’t all bad–the team scored 36 goals this season, the eighth most in the ACAC. They also only conceded 27 goals, the fifth best in the ACAC. Peter Jones also made the All-Conference team. It was a good season, but just not enough to make it to the championship. 

The women’s team had an up-and-down start to the season, going 3-2 in January. They had two huge wins in the month: one against Northwestern Polytechnic 7-0 and the other against Portage College 5-2. Their two losses came against Keyano College (4-1), and the King’s University (3-0). Like the men’s team, Keyano College’s women’s team also went undefeated, with an impressive 10-0 record. February was a better month for the Ooks, going 4-1 with wins against Portage College (4-0), Lakeland College (3-2), King’s University (2-0) and Northwestern Polytechnic (1-0). Their loss came against Keyano College, who managed to get three goals on the Ooks. The team finished the season 7-3, earning a spot in the ACAC championship.

In the championships, the Ooks lost their first two games. They lost 2-1 to SAIT and 2-0 to Olds College. After finishing bottom after the round-robin, the Ooks played the third-place team on the other side of the round-robin in the quarterfinals, Lakeland College. The Ooks won the game 2-1 and advanced to the semifinals, where they played SAIT again, but SAIT proved to be too much for the Ooks, beating them 3-1. 

It was not all doom and gloom for the team, though, because losing in the semifinals meant they got the chance to play for a bronze medal. But, luck was not on NAIT’s side as they were matched up against Keyano College in the bronze medal game, who they had previously lost to twice. Keyano once again beat NAIT and denied them the bronze medal.

Despite the championship loss, the Ooks had an amazing season, especially since it was Head Coach Dhee Ghovender’s first year with the team and his first Head Coach role. They scored 26 goals in the regular season, which was the seventh most in the ACAC. But their defence was their hallmark this season, and they only allowed 16 goals–the fourth best in the ACAC. The women’s team also saw one of their players, Sasha Pietramala, make the All-Conference team.

Cover photo via NAIT Ooks

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