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The development of futsal in the smallest sports nation!

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San Marino is, according to Wikipedia, an enclaved microstate in Southern Europe, on the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains, completely surrounded by Italy. Spread just over 61 square kilometers, with a population of 33.562 people, San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world.

Thus, San Marino is, and we do not want to offend anyone, one of the weakest sports countries on the Globe. For example, San Marino’s football team, and football is by far the most popular sport in the country, is 209th out of 210 countries in the FIFA World Ranking with only three points more than last Anguilla and with 18 points less than the 208th British Virgin Islands.

The situation in futsal is not different. San Marino’s national team is on 114th place out of 114 nations included in the Futsal World Ranking. San Marino’s futsal national team started competing in 2008. Since then, they have two victories and one draw in friendly matches, but they are still looking for their first win in the official competitions, like qualifications for UEFA Euro and FIFA World Cup.

Roberto Osimani futsal

During the Futsal Week Winter Cup 2019 played in Poreč (16th-21st December) we had an opportunity to talk with San Marino’s national team coach Roberto Osimani and Giacomo Simoncni, San Marino’s team manager.

“Our biggest problem is the limited amount of players to choose from”, says Osimani in the beginning, “and, of course, the fact that most young players want to play football”.

Well, we would say that’s the problem with probably every country in the world, but when you have such a small population this problem intensifies even more…

 

Our biggest problem is the limited amount of players to choose from

 

San Marino has 15 football clubs, and 12 of them have their futsal section, our interlocutors are explaining. But, players who play football cannot play futsal and vice-versa. Those 12 clubs are divided into two leagues, and the best of them are playing for the championship. But, best Sammarinese futsal players are playing in the lowest Italian leagues.

“In San Marino, we don’t have futsal academies. So, the players play football until they are 20 years old, and then they decide whether they want to stay in football or become futsal players”.

But, in 2018 San Marino has established Under 19 national squad so they could participate in the premier U19 European Championship which was held in Latvia in 2019.

“It’s a great start. In the future, we hope that our FA will develop other youth categories. Then we will have much bigger opportunities to develop futsal players”, says Simoncini .

Roberto Osimani futsal

The second problem the Sanmmarinese futsal faces is the fact that their clubs play their matches outdoors, on artificial grass.

Our national team only once a week trains indoor, in the national basketball hall. That is a very big obstacle because playing indoor and outdoor is a completely different thing. We hope that one day we will have our own sports hall. That will surely attract more young players to start playing futsal while they are quite young,  That is our biggest goal right now, get our own sports hall”, told us Osimani but he couldn’t tell us when approximately that could actually happen…

What are the expectations of your FA, do they want to have the result on the field?

“Of course, every FA want to have results”, says Osmani, “but, for San Marino, it’s a different kind of a result. For start, we want to achieve our first official victory. We must grow step by step each day. It is very important”.

Did you try to acquire some Brazilian players, naturalize them and improve your team?

“Oh, no. In San Marino it is not possible. We are a small country, a kind of tax oasis. Not as flexible as Monaco, but a lot of people would like to become citizens of San Marino. So, there is a strict policy about giving citizenship to people not born in San Marino”.

Is it good or bad for you?

“On the one hand, it is bad because I have a really small pool of players to chose from. On the other hand, it is good for local players, for the spirit of sports, for the ‘Olimpico’”.

In Futsal Week Winter Cup San Marino expectedly finished last out of five nations, they scored two and conceded 20 goals, and those two goals they have scored, against vice-champion Montenegro and third-placed China, they celebrated as though they scored winning goals, few seconds before the final whistle.

However, what we could notice, San Marino was very competitive in the first halves of the matches in which they conceded only six goals, but as the matches continued in the second halves, they would fell and eventually conceded 14 more goals.

Roberto Osimani futsal

What is the reason for that, poor physical preparation, lack of experience, lack of energy, something else?

“First of all, we came to Poreč without seven standard players. Since they are all amateurs, they could not come because of work, college, private obligations. So, we played with two guys born in 2001., and two guys born in 1999. The average age of the team was under the 24 years old”, says Osimani and continues:

“I am really satisfied with how the lads played, with their mentality. We still have a lot to improve in offensive building, but they are young players, complete beginners. With a mix of these young lads and more experienced players who are not here, I believe it will be very good”.

Several times during our conversation, Osimani has emphasized the importance of mentality in competitive sports, and his philosophy not only in sport but in life also, is that the most important thing is to improve and grow step by step, day by day.

“With that mentality, we will eventually achieve our goals. It is a matter of time”.

And what is the general popularity of futsal in San Marino?

“Very low”, says team manager Simoncini. “Football is the most popular and people also like to watch basketball since it has its hall, and futsal, as we mentioned earlier, is played outdoors. Futsal does not attract a large number of people, but it is changing, especially within the younger population. Since we were hosts of Preliminary round of UEFA U19 Euro Qualifications, a lot of young people, friends of players, attended the basketball hall in which the tournament was held. We created a sort of movement. I believe that by developing youth academies, and by gaining our futsal arena, the popularity of futsal will rise undoubtedly”.

Sammarinese Football Association slowly realizes the importance of futsal, so once a month Osimani attends six local football academies and he teaches futsal to young footballers.

With that mentality, we will eventually achieve our goals. It is a matter of time

In Italy, which surrounds San Marino, the situation is different. Since a young age, Italian kids can train futsal, and a lot of football academies incorporate futsal into the training process.

“Italy is still not at the level of Spain, Portugal, Brazil or Argentina, but they are improving. Italy has also changed its policy about the naturalized players in the national squad and foreigners in their leagues”.

Unlike previous years, most of the Italy national team squad is not made out of naturalized players, and every team competing in Serie A must have at list six players who have gone through the whole training process in Italian youth futsal academies. It doesn’t matter whether they are Italian or foreigners, it is only important that they have trained youth futsal in Italy. In a second division that numbers go to seven players, and in the third division to eight…

“It is not a short-term process, we will see results of that policy in five years”.

Besides San Marino, Osimani currently coaches Italian second-division team Buldog Lucrezia so he is very familiar with the situation in Italian futsal. What are the expectations from the Italian national team, will they qualify for the World Cup 2010 in Litva?

“Well, Italy plays against host Portugal, Finland, and Belarus. The home team is an absolute favorite, so Italy is expected to paly additional qualifications for the World Cup. But, just like in football, with Italy, you can never tell. Italians have that winning mentality which is sometimes more important than technical knowledge”.

Lastly, we asked Osimani what was the experience playing on Futsal Week.

“Well, I am here in the conflict of interest. Since Mićo Martić, Marko Šimurina and Mićo Martić are my great friends, even if I didn’t like it, I could not tell”, speaks with laughter Osimani. “I am kidding, of course, Futsal Week is a great thing and I am thankful to them for inviting us. Without this kind of project, the teams like San Marino could never compete with strong teams such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkmenistan, Montenegro, and China. But, it is not just for a sport. In such tournaments, you meet new people, new cultures. You get to know the world. It is a great thing for such a small community like futsal is”.

 

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