Futsal can help develop Scotland's players - Brian McClair

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland
Scotland recently won a home double-header against Gibraltar
Scotland won a home double-header against Gibraltar in Perth

Scottish Football Association performance director Brian McClair believes futsal can help develop more technically adept players.

The national side, now under McClair's remit, recently played its first home matches, beating Gibraltar twice.

And the former Scotland striker thinks futsal can aid emerging talent.

"It'll help players develop their individual skills, their tactical knowledge. Overall, it's got a lot of things going for it," he said.

The five-a-side game is played widely in South America and across mainland Europe and many of the world's best players - Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo among them - learned their intricate ball skills on a futsal pitch.

Futsal is played with a smaller, heavier ball on a court similar to a basketball court.

'Lots more touches'

"It's a game we see very much as something to explore along with other formats of indoor football," McClair told BBC Scotland. "It's a microcosm of an 11-a-side game - lots of touches, it's a very tactical game.

"I'm a great believer that if it looks like football, it probably is football and if you're practising those elements of it, you can only get better at it.

"It can only be a good thing - the opportunity to get lots more touches, to practise one v one situations, both attacking and defending. If there's an opportunity to develop it from a very young level, it's something we should be exploring."

Futsal is only just taking hold in Scotland
Futsal is only just taking hold in Scotland

Mark Potter, Scotland's futsal head coach, is a long-term advocate of the potential benefits of the game for the greater good.

"Anyone who's watched these two games [against Gibraltar] will see where the synergy is between the game as a sport in its own right and the development of quick-thinking, creative, technically-proficient football players," he told BBC Scotland.

"Many of the aspects of this small-sided game - the close pressure and high intensity - are things we're beginning to see in football more and more often."

Long-term project

Potter is keen to see futsal proliferate for its own benefit as well as that of the professional 11-a-side game, as is Ross Chisholm, part of the national futsal team and formerly of Hibernian and Dundee.

Now involved with Kilmarnock's youth set-up, Chisholm believes the growth of futsal would go hand-in-hand with an improvement in the development of the country's young talent, but stresses the need for a long-term approach.

"Everyone wants to develop technical players like Spain and Germany do. If you can introduce futsal at most of the academies, maybe at under-eights, nines, tens, and give them a certain amount of hours per week, you'll develop better players," he said.

"It's just if people want to see that long-term effect because you're not going to get instant results. You have to be prepared to start young and you'll get the benefits in 10, 15 years potentially."