Football comment: Wales took its first steps at the beginning of what could prove to be a football revolution for the country today.
History was made as the Welsh futsal team turned out in their first competitive match against Greece, which offered plenty of positives despite ending in a 4-1 defeat.
For those who haven’t come across futsal, it’s a high-tempo, 40-minute game that would be more commonly recognised as five-a-side.
Brazil and Spain have, somewhat predictably, dominated the game since Fifa brought futsal into the mainstream with a World Cup in 1989.
For Wales, today’s loss to Greece came just two years after the nation’s first futsal squad assembled at a training camp in Cardiff, having been handpicked from a new all-Wales club tournament.
The young Dragons had little in the way of preparation prior to their competitive bow, playing only a couple of friendlies against Andorra last September that both ended in 2-1 defeats.
In that context, the 4-1 result is merely the first step on what will hopefully be a long and fruitful road for the Welsh futsal side and it is to be hoped that the Dragons’ first competitive goal, netted by former Cardiff City forward Tyrrell Webbe, will be the first of many.
The fixture was the first of three Euro 2014 preliminary round games scheduled over just four days, meaning that Wales have the opportunity to make their mark against their Bulgarian hosts in a decisive match tomorrow before their final group match against Armenia on Saturday.
As a result, the week promises to be a whirlwind of fast-paced football and new experiences.
And coach Richard Gunney is under no illusions about the challenge, comparing this week’s Euro 2014 qualifying matches to “walking into the lion’s den,” in an interview with Uefa this week.
Alongside Sweden, Denmark and Gibraltar, Wales are just one of four teams making their competitive futsal bow this week.
The Football Association of Wales (FAW) aren’t shy about admitting Wales were one of the last nations in Europe to embrace the relatively new game.
But there’s every reason to believe the rise in popularity of fufsal can have a positive influence across Wales.
There are now around 1,000 people regularly playing futsal in a new domestic competition and the numbers are set to rise.
Futsal promises to drill players in the purest pass and move form of football, with emphasis being on skill rather than size.
Such a vision couldn’t be further from the football reality of most young footballers in Wales, charging around muddy pitches in packs.
And beyond its new samba style of play, the FAW also hope that futsal can be a tool for social inclusion by encouraging people with disabilities to take up a more accessible version of the beautiful game.
Last week the second of five Welsh futsal hubs was unveiled by Chris Coleman in north Wales.
Football and political leaders alike are hoping the hubs will prove popular enough to provide much-needed jobs and help regenerate communities. It will take some time to see whether these good intentions are fulfilled.
But with our kids having their kick abouts in new facilities and a new national team, futsal looks set to change the game in Wales for the better.
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