Shockers' next stop: Venezuela
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, FREE PRESS SPORTS COLUMNIST
London Benfica Shockers played their way to the Pan American AMF Futsal championship in Venezuela in March.
Now they need to earn their way there.
The Shockers are the Canadian men's futsal champion having defeated perennial champion Toronto last April. A win at Pan American would mean a trip to the AMF Futsal World Cup in Paraguay.
While the Shockers will go to the tournament, they are hoping to raise sponsorship that will help them defray the estimated $25,000 cost.
"We play in North London and at the Soccer Dome so we play a lot," said Rob Pereira, player and spokesperson for the club. "We're looking at doing stuff with our jerseys and carry a banner with our sponsors to all the games.
"We've been a pretty good team for a number of years and been in the Ontario final the last four years."
Futsal is indoor soccer with a twist. It's played on a smaller basketball-court size, with hardwood or rubberized surface. There are no boards.
The game is five a side including goalies, with two, 20-minute stop-time halves.
The ball is smaller and weighted to promote dribbling, passing and control skills. There can be plenty of scoring in this form of soccer.
Futsal is very popular in South America and Europe. World-class players such as Robinho, Juninho, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho played futsal when they were young.
The game is increasing in popularity in North America. There is a 10-team men's futsal league in London and two leagues for young players.
Pereira has been playing for more than 10 years.
"Surprisingly, it's a pretty well-kept secret," he said. "Most of the minor kids are starting to find out about it and they really want to get into it. It helps them so much with their outdoor skill level."
Most of the players on the Shockers play summer soccer in the Western Ontario Soccer League Premier Division with Benfica or White Eagles.
Benfica has built a strong futsal team over the years. Pereira started in Strathroy.
They've won the league four years and made the Ontario final those four years. The team is made up of 12 players.
"It's not kick and run," Pereira says. "It's very strategic with set plays. It forces you to be skillful. It promotes more one-two passes and quick-off-the-ball stuff. It's really quick. It's all about possession and getting in situations where you can create scoring chances."
The players from Benfica include Johnny Paiva, Mark Fernandes, Frank Neiva, Brian Bettencourt, Jason Carellas, Walter Picanco, Fidel Villenueva and Pereira. Denny Rodriques plays for Strathroy with Peter Magier, Adam Magier and Mark Magier play for White Eagles.
Futsal originated in Uruguay in 1930. It became known as Futbol de Salon or indoor football.
Anyone interested in helping out can call 519-245-1316