Futsal: Tokyo’s Urban Sport of Choice
Futsal started as a Brazilian variant of football. In Portuguese, futsal literally translates as ‘room football,’ and was designed principally to be played either indoors or outdoors, on courts designed for basketball, and in just about any weather or conditions. Tokyo, like many other cities, lacks the space for larger team sports to take place freely. As a result, futsal has become an attractive option for groups of friends or colleagues who would like to have a good old-fashioned ‘kickabout’ in the metropolis after work. So where are these futsal courts, and what exactly is futsal? This article will introduce the uninitiated to this popular activity.
A game of futsal is commonly composed of two teams of five, with one player assuming the role of goalkeeper at any given time. Like football, the main objective stays the same: score as many goals as possible. Unlike football however, futsal is not played on grass so much, but on artificially surfaced courts that are often fenced or walled in some way. Balls are smaller and space is tight, meaning that play is often quicker, technical and more creative. Although an official rulebook does exist, part of the appeal of futsal is that different groups of friends can make their own adaptations. For example each player must touch the ball twice before a goal can be scored, or that there are to be no goal attempts from inside the box.
In Tokyo, courts can be found close to just about any major transport hub, and given that futsal courts are relatively small, courts are often placed on building roofs, alongside car parks, and even in warehouses. One of the largest companies operating in the greater Tokyo area is 'Adidas Futsal Park', with courts situated in Shibuya and Ikebukuro, as well as Yokohama and Kawasaki. Other notable options are 'Futsal Point' and 'Mizuno Futsal Plaza', who both offer courts across Tokyo and further afield. Courts are extremely popular, and advance booking is essential. Reservations can be made online, however English support is not available. For those of you who can read Japanese, Futsal-Tokyois a great resource for finding out more local information about courts. There are also a number of municipal facilities that contain futsal courts, with the Sendagaya Futsal Court opposite the former National Olympics Stadium being one of the more established and English-friendly options.
Prices for the all the places listed above vary according to location and time, however expect to pay more at the privately run courts. The more players you have, the cheaper it will be for everyone, however if you’re short on numbers some companies provide a matchmaking service. You are also generally required to take out an annual membership when you join, which is usually around the 10,000 yen mark per team. There are no rules on what to wear, however as courts often have an artificial surface, boots with studs are not permitted. Courts also provide team vests, as well as changing and shower facilities.