Amid opposition from the All India Football Federation (AIFF), veteran futsal star Alessandro Rosa Vieira, commonly known as Falcao, has backed the world's first-ever multi-national futsal league -- Premier Futsal -- to thrive in India and build a sporting ecosystem in the country.
The AIFF had recently opposed the league and said it is considering legal action and also asking its affiliated members not to cooperate with the league. Futsal is a 5-a-side variant of football which is popular in many countries. Futsal matches are split into two halves of 20 minutes each.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das had earlier said that the federation has planned to come up with its own futsal league in the country.
Vieira, who has guided Brazil to their fourth and fifth titles in the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2008 and 2011, claimed that with the Futsal Association of India (FAI) governing the league, things will get better with time.
"I have played futsal across the world my whole life and believe me when I say there is no controversy here. I have played in tournaments hosted by Associacion Mundial de Futsal (AMF), FIFA and several other private entities and all of them exist peacefully together. Premier Futsal, I think, is a great platform to showcase the sport and with the Indian Federation also looking at a Futsal league, things will only get better from here on for the sport," Falcao told IANS in an interview.
"I have played in many private leagues across the world in Dubai, Kuwait, US etc. and there was never any interference from AMF or FIFA then. As a player, I feel that it's a great opportunity to really grow the sport in India. The best futsal players coming for this league will only help popularize the sport here. This will give people another sport to enjoy as a viewer, audience or a player and finally help build a sporting ecosystem in the country," the 39-year-old added.
Premier Futsal is set to take place across eight Indian cities from July 15 to 24. Over 50 international players from 21 countries are expected to participate.
Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Hyderabad and Goa are the eight places which will have franchise outfits in the inaugural season.
Portuguese football legend Luis Figo is the president of Premier Futsal and star India batsman Virat Kohli is the brand ambassador of the league. Soon after the signing of Falcao for a five-year contract, the league roped in former Portugal football star Deco.
With the fast growing popularity of Indian Super League (ISL), futsal, despite being a similar sport, the four-time world's best futsal player of the year believes that plenty of tricks, skills and goals at both ends will make the sport a hit in India.
"India has always been known to enjoy sports with a lot of flair and flamboyance; futsal is exactly that. Plenty of tricks, skills and goals at both ends, I am confident India will take a liking to futsal and the sport will also benefit from Premier Futsal," said the Sao Paulo-born, who is also called 'Pele of Futsal'.
"It would be a great platform to showcase what Futsal is all about to the Indian youth."
Brazilian football stars Neymar, Ronaldinho and Robinho started their career playing futsal, but Falcao chose to continue with the five-a-side game because of his sheer love for it.
"I chose to play futsal. I loved the format and found I was very good at it, able to do all those amazing things you need to do with the ball to be successful at futsal. There is a difference between the skill sets required to play futsal and football. Some techniques are transferable but others are specific to futsal," said Falcao, who scored 339 goals in 201 appearances for Brazil.
Falcao further added that having good situational awareness can help become a successful futsaler.
"Futsal is played on a smaller court and is of shorter duration, making it more challenging for a player to score goals. You have to develop new techniques to beat the opposition. Futsal players tend to develop very good situational awareness which allows us to see possible passes that might otherwise seem difficult or impossible," the 2008 FIFA World's Best Futsal Player concluded.