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Why is Futsal not an Olympic sport?

One of the most common questions in the futsal community and among people who are only superficially interested in this sport is - Why is Futsal not an Olympic sport?

Futsal is one of the most popular and widespread sports globally. Like football, it is played in every corner of the world, especially on an amateur and youth level. It is one of the most popular sports in South America and Southern Europe on a professional level. Futsal is experiencing rapid and exponential growth in Asia, North Africa, North America, and Northern and Central Europe…

However, Futsal is still far from the status of an Olympic sport…

Futsal is considered a modern sport since it became institutionalized in the late 80-ties of the 20th century, although its roots and origins date from 1930s when Argentinian teacher Juan-Carlos Ceriani Gravier invented the sport in Uruguay.

> A million-dollar question: Who invented futsal?

On a list of 46 sports at the 32nd edition of Summer Olympic Games – Tokyo 2020 – there are several ‘modern’ sports such as 3x3 basketball, Surfing, Sports Climbing, Cycling BMX Freestyle, and Cycling BMX racing.

However, Futsal is still no way near the lists of Olympic sports, even though it has a larger audience and popularity in the world.

Why is that indeed?

"The International Olympic Committee is trying to reduce the cost of The Olympics as cities are being more careful with the public funds they have, and interest in hosting has been diminishing. They limited the Summer Olympics to 10,500 athletes. If Futsal was added, that would mean one governing body, FIFA, would have nearly 10% of the athlete quota for just four medals. I can only see Futsal entering if football was removed, but football is one of the most lucrative sports at the games. Again, when the IOC is trying to improve the finances of the Games, I can't see them removing football", said Doug Reed in the interview for FutsalFeed in 2020, and a few years earlier, he researched the same topic on his blog:

„It would seem impossible that The IOC would allow this for just four events, especially for a sport where the Olympics is not the most important championship. It can be concluded that Futsal’s only route is to compete against football for a place in the Olympic Games".

>> Doug Reed: Futsal is a fantastic game - it will grow with or without the FA's involvement

As for favorite England national team international, if Futsal would be included in the Olympics (men and women), FIFA would have four sports with a lot of athletes in the Games.  

Continuing on Doug Reed's thoughts, if we want to see Futsal at the Olympic games, The International Olympic Committee would have to remove the men's football tournament and add futsal men's tournament as its replacement. Football would still be represented through women's football tournament, which is considered even the biggest footballing event than FIFA Women's World cup.

Therefore, as the most represented federation at Summer Olympics, FIFA would have two sports (women's football tournament and men's futsal tournament), not four as it would have if the men's and women's futsal tournaments were added to the two footballing tournaments.

Many advocate this 'castling' of sports since the Olympic men's football tournament is played on a relatively low level, with teams restricted to Under-23 players with a maximum of three overage players allowed.

Considering that, the biggest football stars miss the Olympic tournament (even though some great footballing names such as Leo Messi, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Samuel Eto'o, Nwankwo Kanu, Pep Guardiola, and others won Olympic tournament).

However, even though countries don't play with their most prominent stars, it is one of the most viewed and most lucrative sports at the Olympics. Because... football is football...

Therefore, as Reed noted, it is not so probably that IOC will replace football with Futsal which is still not so lucrative and probably never will be as football.

In his blog, Doug Reed also noted:

"To earn a space in The Olympic Programme, any new sport such as Futsal has to bring more value than those already in, and those bidding to be included".

The IOC clarifies that the main criteria for considering new sports are that they bring additional value, specifically media and public interest. Futsal will never be able to compete with football on these aspects.

Other Suggestions

There were also suggestions that Futsal, with some other indoor sports, joins the Winter Olympics and thus increase interest in less popular Games. However, that is not possible since FIFA is considered a summer Olympic association. Hence, its sports cannot be a part of the Winter Olympic program.

There is also an idea that AMF (Asociacion Mundial de Futsal), the unofficial futsal governing body, applies Futsal for the Olympic sport, but that is also not possible since IOC does not recognize the AMF as an official federation.

What does the IOC say?

We have also sent the following five questions to the International Olympic Committee:

1. What does it take for Futsal to become an Olympic sport?
2. Have there been initiatives to make Futsal an Olympic sport so far?
3. If Futsal would become an Olympic sport, which edition of the Olympic games could have its premiere?
4. Is there a possibility for Futsal to become part of the Winter Olympics?
5. How do you view the idea of Futsal as an Olympic sport?

However, we didn't get answers to our questions. The IOC's PR service just passed us the LINK with frequently asked questions about sports, programmes, and results.

Here are some of the IOC's official site answers, which could relate to our topic…

How can a sport be included in the Olympic Games Programme?

"First of all, a sport must be governed by an International Federation which undertakes to follow the rules of the Olympic Charter, a basic condition for recognition by the IOC. It must also be practiced widely across the world and meet various criteria. After that, the IOC‘s Executive Board may recommend that a recognized sport be added to the Games program if the IOC Session approves it".

What are the conditions required for a sport to be recognized by the IOC?

"To be recognized by the IOC, a sport must first of all be governed by an International Federation (IF). This is required in order to conform to the Rules of the Olympic Charter, the World Anti-Doping Code as well as the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of Manipulation of Competitions".

Who is responsible for adding events or disciplines to the programme of the Olympic Games?

"The International Federations (IFs) are responsible for deciding on the programme of events in their respective sports. However, any proposal by an IF to add or remove disciplines or events has to be approved by the IOC Executive Board".

As you can see, those answers are pretty generic and don't solve our problem.

We replied to the IOC, stating that we didn't get the required answers, but the IOC never replied again.

Futsal at Youth Olympics

Futsal, however, became an Olympic sport in 2018 as a part of the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. The participation of 10 boy's and women's national futsal teams had its inaugural presentation at the Olympic games. Brazil (gold), Russia (silver), and Egypt (bronze) won medals in the boy's category, and Portugal (gold), Japan (silver), and Spain (Bronze) won medals in the girl's category.

Futsal (both boy's and girls') will be a part of the next Youth Olympics, which will be played in 2026 in Dakar (Senegal), and that is an excellent thing since Futsal is considered a sport of the future. If the kid's like and enjoy this game, it is a hope that once we will see the futsal tournament in the Summer Olympic Games.

When can we expect Futsal at the Olympic Games?

If Futsal as a professional sport grows in the next few years, if it becomes even more popular in strong European Olympic nations such as Germany and France, if the United States establishes a professional league and if the US national team achieve a concrete result at the World Cup 2021, if Futsal spreads even more throughout Africa and Asia and, consequently, becomes the second or the most popular indoor sport in the world, then even the IOC will not be able to ignore it and will have to include Futsal in the Olympic program.

>> Football trying to copy Futsal

Andre Caro Salve has started the petition to the International Olympic Committee, its president Thomas Bach, FIFA, and its president Gianni Infantino to include Futsal in the Olympic games.

Currently, around 3.500 out of 5000 people signed the petition. It is still not a big number considering the size and width of the global futsal community.

Hopefully, this text will also help spread the word in the global community and help Futsal get what it deserves – its place at the biggest sporting event in the world (and all time!)

We are seeking your support to push for Futsal to be included as an Olympic sport.

Futsal is one of the fastest-growing indoor sports in the world, and participants who take part hold an extreme passion that’s clearly evident in every country in the game is played.

Its fast pace, dynamic rules, and inclusiveness - providing an opportunity for almost anyone to play - are a big reason for the sport’s popularity.

For years, Futsal lovers around the globe have been dreaming for the IOC to include the sport as one of the many events featured in the Games. With football federations around the world focused primarily on world football (or soccer) as their main product, Futsal featuring in the Olympics could be a huge step for more exposure, participation, and importance going forward.

There is so much passion for the sport, and people are doing all they can to grow it even further.

Through comments from popular figures such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr & Lionel Messi - who also participated in the Futsal - endorsing the sport, popularity is on the rise. But the inclusion into the Olympic Games could be the final movement in making Futsal enthusiasts’ dreams come true.

We hope the debut of Futsal in the Youth Olympics of 2018 was a good case study to show the sport’s worth.

Ten teams competed, both male and female, with a total of 72,606 spectators present for the male tournament and 43,814 for the female competition.

Including Futsal in the Olympics would not only help the sport grow worldwide, but it would also lead to many more eyes on the Games, at a time when ratings have never been more important.

A sport dating back to its origins in the 1930s, which is a strong part of culture and tradition in many countries, truly deserves a spot in the biggest sporting event in the world.

The Olympic Games is a great way of promoting peace and unity within International communities, and Futsal’s existence in countries with a diverse population - such as Australia - is doing the same thing. It’s a perfect partnership that will change the sport forever. Please consider.