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Futsal Growth in High Schools


By Tim Sheldon

Luciano Fernandez
(Photo: Luciano Fernandez.)

TAMPA, Fla. (7-11-12) - Luciano Fernandez, U.S. President of the Asociación Mundial de Futsal (AMF), has one of the most extensive Futsal backgrounds of anyone playing or coaching in the U.S., and when you ask him to cite the key to the future of Futsal in the U.S., he looks first to the high schools.

"My goal right now is to encourage high school Futsal." said Fernandez, who has been Director of the Tampa Soccer Academy since 1994. "To get high schools to put Futsal in their program. They play soccer, baseball and football, and should also have Futsal. They have the facilities, and it would be so easy for them to develop it."

The Asociación Mundial de Futsal grew out of the Federacao Internationale de Futebol de Salao (FIFUSA), the original worldwide governing body of Futsal. João Havelange was president of FIFUSA for years. When we first began writing about Futsal in the early 1980s, the governing body was still FIFUSA.

Osvaldo Garcia originally founded the U.S. Minisoccer Federation in the early 1980s inaffiliation with FIFUSA and became its first president and head coach. U.S. Minisoccer later became the U.S. Futsal Federation under a new president and shifted its affiliation to U.S Soccer and FIFA. U.S. Futsal is still a functioning organization but no longer has any governing authority over Futsal in the U.S.

Fernandez is president of the U.S. Court Soccer Federation, in affiliation with the AMF. The original FIFUSA legacy still exists with AMF, U.S. Court Soccer and Luciano Fernandez. It's still independent and still very active.

A native of Paraguay, Fernandez grew up playing soccer and played for great Paraguayan clubs such as SP Obreo, Atlantida, 2 de Mayo and Cerro Porteño. He later played for Palmeiras in Brazil.

At the end of his playing career, Fernandez became coach of Paraguay’s National Futsal Team and led them to a series of tournament championships and South American titles. He coached the Paraguayan Regional All Stars for 12 years and lead them to either first or second place in seven national tournaments.

The sum total of this experience makes Fernandez easily one of the most knowledgeable Futsal mentors in the U.S., and when you ask him about the future of U.S. Futsal, it all comes down to the high schools.

"I believe that establishing Futsal at this level is really where Futsal is going to develop in this country," he said. "I talked to the high school commission here, and they told me to go ahead and develop a plan and come back to them. So they can decide to put the sport into the schools."

He noted that several Tampa high schools are already playing Futsal.

"They use the gyms and play Futsal there. Once those schools accept the sport, I think Futsal is going to be big here in the United States."

The AMF is active in several Florida locations and also conducts programs in New York and Chicago. The New York branch is working on possibilities for developing professional Futsal and has been more geared to senior players. In Florida, the emphasis has been more on youth.

Fernandez takes teams from the Tampa Soccer Academy to Europe or South America each year and has brought teams from Brazil and other countries, "just to show the youth and the people here what Futsal is like."

He will be attending the AMF annual convention in Asunción, Paraguay, later this month.

Fernandez thinks both the AMF and FIFA can have a strong influence in assisting the development of Futsal in the U.S.

"It is growing for both sides, AMF and FIFA. I'm pleased with what FIFA is doing. They're trying to develop Futsal. On my side, I'm trying to develop it, too, and it is a sport that is really growing in the United States."

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