Saturday, October 27, 2012

After trip to Spain for a futsal coaches' clinic, Massachusetts Futsal director of officials Soorena Farboodmanesh is inspired to raise level of the game here

When Soorena Farboodmanesh works with referees in Massachusetts Futsal Association, his perspective on how the game is played is influenced by a recent trip to Spain.

Soorena Farboodmanesh
Farboodmanesh, MFA’s director of officials and the reigning Massachusetts State Referee Committee Referee Administrator of the Year, was among a group of United States Youth Futsal representatives who attended a coaches’ clinic in Spain in September. The group visited a professional training facility and attended Spanish Futsal Super Cup games. But Farboodmanesh and the others were first exposed the game’s subtleties during clinic lectures by the technical staff of Liga Nacional Futbol Sala.

And language was hardly an obstacle, he and the others say.

“They made it so easy for us,” said Farboodmanesh. “We got it. The translator helped a lot, but we would’ve gotten it anyhow.”

From a coach’s viewpoint, Farboodmanesh learned that in Spain professional futsal players specialize in the game, just as outdoor professionals do in the U.S. and other countries.

“In places like Spain, they play futsal as futsal, for the game itself, not because there’s no outdoor soccer,” he said.

Few, if any, also play outdoor soccer on a competitive level. That’s a big contrast to the U.S. or Canada, where players focus on outdoor soccer for nine or 10 months a year, then transition to a 10-week futsal season when winter arrives.

The specialization also means the games are played, coached and refereed differently. As a referee trainer, one thing Farboodmanesh observed is that in Spain futsal is more of a skillful, finesse game than it is in North America, where outdoor soccer has a big influence on the indoor game.

“In other countries, it’s less physical than what we do here,” he said. “That is one of the things that we constantly remind our referees. The technique of the players in Spain and Brazil, it is so much greater than it is here. If there is contact, the referees really apply the rules over there, the futsal rules.”
The result is that contact is reduced and the emphasis is on skillful individual play and combinations between players.

Farboodmanesh, a resident of Newton, Mass., refereed his first outdoor games at 21 in his native Iran before transitioning to futsal two years later. In 2001, he emigrated to the U.S. to study computer engineering and has stayed here ever since. He is now working on a graduate business degree in entrepreneurship.

And, almost 20 years later, he’s still involved in the game he loves.

During the clinic sessions in Spain, Farboodmanesh said he learned the game is coached differently than it is here. Professional practices are broken down into game-related situations where a team may work on set kick-in and corner-kick plays for 20 to 30 minutes during a training session. Since the game flows with little time to verbally organize, teams develop signals to label the desired runs on set pieces.
Farboodmanesh, right, with Jon Parry, part of the USYF trip to Spain.

Overall, training sessions are more structured than they are in North America, with greater emphasis on drills and game situations than scrimmaging.
“In Spain, futsal coaching is more structured than the ‘let them play’ over here,” Farboodmanesh said.

As with professional sports in the U.S. and Canada, there is also an emphasis on scouting and films that prepare players for the tendencies of opponents. A scouting coach will review specific things like “No. 6 is a right-footed player, No. 10 is a left-footed player” or how often a team that’s behind is likely to use its goalie as a fifth field player.

Futsal could well become that sophisticated here some day, but for now Farboodmanesh, 40, said his emphasis in Massachusetts is to refine the work of his league’s 70 referees. The league registered just under a combined 200 teams last winter for two sessions.

As a referee instructor – Farboodmanesh doesn’t assign games – teaches courses, critiques officials and leads certification and recertification classes.

And, as is the case with North American players, referees in the U.S. and Canada transition from the outdoor game to futsal and often bring habits and reference points with them.

“The referees that we have do a very good job outdoors as far as game management goes,” Farboodmanesh said. “Inside, they have to make game-management decisions faster. In refereeing, game management is the most important thing.”

Depending on his referees’ ages, Farboodmanesh said he might emphasize skills such as talking to coaches, limiting physical contact and communicating with players to prevent fouls and keep competition-fired tempers from spinning out of control.

As referees progress, there’s a potential reward for them – a trip to the U.S. Youth Futsal National Tournament, which will be held at a seven-court facility in Gardner, Kan. in February 2013. Farboodmanesh said he’s refereed at nationals since 2008 or so, after being named MFA’s Referee of the Year and becoming its director of referees.

“Every year, we pick two referees, a young referee and an adult as our Referees of the Year and we pay for them to go to nationals,” he said.

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