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A million-dollar question: Who invented futsal?

  • Who created contemporary football (or soccer, as that game would be named in some parts of the world)?
  • It's easy - the British!
  • And who invented basketball?
  • Even though basketball is an American national sport, and it was invented in the U.S.A., it is known that the inventor of the game is Canadian James Naismith.
  • And what about water polo?
  • According to the name, we would say the British!
  • And you would be right! Handball?
  • Not quite sure, just like football (soccer) it is the game that has its roots in ancient civilizations, but modern handball is attributed to the Danes.
  • Correct again. Ok, we won't bother you more. Just one more question… Who invented futsal?
  • Hm, the sources say it was created in Uruguay in 1930 by Argentinian Juan-Carlos Ceriani Gravier, a teacher in Uruguay's capital Montevideo.
  • Are you sure?
  • Well, it is the most widespread theory, but the other sources claim that Ceriani's game was just one kind of an indoor football (soccer) that was played under the different regulations and in various variations through the whole world. The Brazilians are ones who institutionalized futsal and in 1956 wrote the first Book of Rules that was adopted at the international level.
  • So, what is your final answer?
  • Uf, we are confused. Maybe you can explain to us?
  • We'll try. But, due to a lack of quality historical documentation, we assure you – it won't be easy


Fútbol Sala vs Futebol de Sãlao

Indeed, there is no consensus on who exactly created the game of futsal. Just like football, futsal has its roots in ancient games in which people kicked a spherical-shaped object. According to, „the very earliest form of the game for which there is scientific evidence was an exercise from a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BC in China“. The name of that ancient Chinese game, the „prehistoric“ version of football played under the Han Dynasty, was Tsu' Chu.

The other forerunners of football were played in Ancient Greek (Episkyros), Ancient Rome (Harpastum), Ancient Japan (Kemari) etc.

So, the root of football and futsal dates back to ancient history, more than 4.000 years ago.

But what about the contemporary or modern futsal, the game we know today?

Different versions of football on smaller fields with less than 11 players-a-side were played since the beginning of modern football (mid-19th century), but first sports that used the term „fútbol sala“ (indoor football) was created by Argentine-born teacher and coach Juan-Carlos Ceriani Gravier, for the recreation of his students in the Uruguayan Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).

At that point, football was in its peak in that relatively small South American country (back then Uruguay had the average population of fewer than 2 million people) that previously won inaugural 1930 World Cup (played in Uruguay) and two gold medals on the Olympic Games (the strongest football tournaments at that time) in 1924 and 1928.

In the first book of futsal rules that Ceriani wrote in 1933 (even though there is no formal documentation of these rules), he used principles from several sports – connection with football is the most obvious, players in the field can touch the ball with every part of their body besides hands; but he also used elements from others sports: in futsal team, there are 5 players-a-side and the game lasts 40 minutes, just like in basketball; the field and goals are the same sizes as those in handball; and the rule of flying goalkeeper was taken from the water polo.

So Ceriani invented the game that was composed of aspects of the four most popular sports at that time.  

Therefore, most of the futsal analytics will state that Argentinian teacher Ceriani is the father of futsal, and since he lived and operated in Uruguay, Uruguayans are considered as the inventors of this game.

Most of the analytics will state that, but not all of them…

We all know that Brazil is the most dominant futsal nation in history and futsal is the second most popular sport in the biggest South American country with millions of people, especially young ones, playing futsal on all sort of courts.

Famous Brazilian footballers such as Pelé, Zico, Sócrates, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar, Coutinho, etc. started their career playing futsal...

> What is the best footballing futsal team ever?

There is no doubt that Brazilians have invested the most in this game since its beginnings and futsal can be considered as their national sport.

But, besides that, there is evidence that futsal was actually invented in Brazil…

The theory goes like this: Ceriani established its own version of indoor football which was played in different variations and under the different rules since the start of contemporary football, therefore from the mid-19th century. Besides that, Ceriani's „fútbol sala“ wasn't always played as a 5-a-side. There were also games with six or seven players-a-side.

According to, the similar small-sided game was being played in the São Paolo, called „Futebol de Salão“.

„Fútbol sala“ or „Futebol de Sãlao“ was played through the whole of South America under the different regulations and rules. Not until the mid-1950-es there weren't any standardized rules. In 1954 the first Futsal Federation was established in São Paolo (Federação Paulista de Futebol de Salão), and a few years later (again, there is no specific documentation in which year exactly, however, all sources state the period between 1956 and 1958) Habib Mahfouz and Luis Gonzaga de Oliveria from São Paolo Futsal Federation published the first Rules Book (with the first version written in 1952 by Mahfouz).

„In the year 1956, when Mr Luiz Gonzaga de Oliveira Fernandes set public of these technical improvements in the form of a book called "Rules of Brazilian Futebol de Salão“, which will apply in all Brazilians states and which will subsequently be accepted by other South American countries and then by FIFUSA in 1971. They are also the same rules that are taught later in France, by Amador Lopez, under the name 'Brazilian Futsal Rules'“ (Brachet Jérôme, 2009)

After a long struggle between Brazil and Uruguay about futsal origins, „which involved much discussion and controversy more or less nationalist“ (Brachet, 2009), Luis Gonzaga de Oliveira Fernandes and João Havelange (the president of FIFA from 1974 to 1998) organized the 1st Congress of the National Federations of Futebol de Salão of South America, held in the Rio de Janeiro in 1967.

„After heated debate following the study of numerous investigations and arguments of experts, assign to Uruguay finally the birth of Futebol de Salão and paternity of the first rules of the game by Argentine priest Juan-Carlos Ceriani Gravier. Brazil was designated as the home where futsal grew up, with the second version of the “Rules Brazilian game of Futebol de Salão“ published in 1956 by Habib Mahfouz and Luiz Gonzaga de Oliveira Fernandes.“ (Brachet, 2009)

So, finally, it was decided that Argentinian teacher from Uruguay Ceriani invented futsal and created the first rules of the game, but there was also no doubt that Brazilians institutionalized the sport and created the first uniform rules that were applied at the international level.

But, let's make a comparison with football (soccer)…

In what year the modern football is invented?

After lots of attempts to ban games similar to football in the middle ages in Britain, in the 19th century, it finally became a sport played regularly in various variations between the British public schools.

Those matches were played under the different rules, for example under the rules of the home school, and it was a sport that was a mixture of modern rugby and modern football. The first recorded such match is happened on December 9th 1834, between Eton and Harrow Schools, even though records of the first sports clubs that played football date back to the late 18th and even earlier centuries.

The first club with the word „football“ in its name was „The Foot-Ball Club of Edinburgh“ active from 1824 to 1841. But, the only surviving rules of that club allowed holding and picking up the ball. Another letter of 1825 refers to a game involving 39 players. Therefore, it was more of a rugby club, right?

So, in which of the British countries was football invented? England or Scotland? Was it in Britain at all? The oldest „football“ club of any code is the Dublin University Football Club founded in 1854, but the primary sport of that club was rugby and that club still plays in the Rugby union.

Two dates are considered as the beginning of modern football.

The first is 24th October 1857 when Sheffield FC, the world's oldest surviving independent club, was established. The club wasn't associated with any institution such as school, hospital or university and it played only football under the „Sheffield Rules“ (Murphy, Brendan: From Sheffield with Love, 2007).

The next date that is considered as the beginning of the contemporary football is 26th October 1863 (six years later) when the English Football Association was founded (Radnedge, 2012, 12) and applied the Cambridge rules established the year before. A few months later, football and rugby finally split and in 1869, when a provision was included in the football rules forbidding any handling of the ball, not only carrying it, they officially become two completely separated sports.

So, you see the point. There is no concrete answer when modern football was exactly established. The wide-spread theory is 1863 when The FA was founded and applied the Cambridge rules, the first universal rules of the game.

But, if you ask guys from Sheffield, they will say that their home town is the cradle of modern football, to which the teams from Edinburgh and Dublin would engage with their arguments. The Florentines would listen to this discussion peacefully and after it ended, they would say: Ok, but we played Calcio Fiorentino, the game similar to modern football, in the 16th century… (Halpern, 2008).

The same goes for the game of futsal…

So, who indeed invented the futsal?

Whether we say that contemporary football was established in Cambridge, Sheffield or Edinburgh, there is no doubt that Great Britain is the cradle of the modern version of the most popular sport in the world.

The problem with the history of futsal is that in the discussion about its beginnings, the two countries are involved, with their own relevant arguments and most importantly with their own national pride.

So, what is the answer to the question in the title of the text?

Well, we are not the judges and we cannot decide about this important topic. According to futsal governing body FIFA (that took interest in futsal almost 60 or 33 years - as you prefer - after its invention), the futsal is invented in 1930 by Argentinian Juan-Carlos Ceriani Gravier in Uruguay.

Nevertheless, we believe that the true answer should be given by the futsal community after the thorough and argumentative discussion based on historical facts.

In any case, we have to thank the South Americans for being able to enjoy this beautiful and attractive sport.

We invite you to write us your opinion about this „burning topic“ in the comments below.



Brendan, Murphy: „From Sheffield with Love“, SportsBooks, 2007
Halpern, Joseph: „Balles and Blood“, Sports Illustrated Vol 109, 2008
Radnedge, Keir: The Complete Encyclopedia of Football, Carlton Books, 2012)

Ron Palenski: Rugby: A New Zeland History