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“Amidst the anticipation of the 2023-2024 futsal season’s kickoff, a groundbreaking development plan has emerged, poised to reshape the landscape of French futsal.
In a significant move aimed at advancing the structural growth of futsal, key figures from the French Football Federation (FFF) presented an elaborate development plan on Thursday, August 24. Philippe Diallo, the FFF President, Philippe Lafrique, a member of the Executive Committee, and Hubert Fournier, the National Technical Director, jointly revealed the comprehensive strategy.
(Main picture – Philippe Diallo, the FFF President, Philippe Lafrique, a member of the Executive Committee, Raphaël Reynaud, coach of the Futsal Blues and Hubert Fournier, the National Technical Director – photo Germain REZÉ / FFF)
With just ten days remaining before the kickoff of the 2023-2024 futsal season, which will witness the debut of D1 championship matches preceding the Elite Tour qualifiers for the 2024 World Cup, the FFF leaders unveiled the federal blueprint dedicated to fostering top-tier French futsal.
“The captivating allure of futsal among the youth has made it a sport of immense significance over the years. This is evidenced by the substantial and promising number of licensed participants,” remarked Philippe Diallo. “Futsal stands as the primary school sport for both girls and boys, boasting nearly 200,000 young practitioners. A few months back, I stood before you to present the development plan for women’s football. Futsal, as our second top priority, is now in focus. This development scheme builds upon the foundation laid by Noël Le Graët. Today, we’re accelerating to shape the future.”
In the presence of Raphaël Reynaud, the National Futsal Team coach and manager of national selections, the three officials outlined the plan, structured around three principal axes:
- Elevating the elite level through national teams, notably the French National Team contending in the 2024 World Cup qualifiers, and the creation of the first-ever French Women’s National Team.
- Enhancing competitions, marked by the introduction of the U18 national challenge one year after the launch of the women’s challenge.
- Strengthening the structure to promote training and excellence across all categories.
The FFF, dedicated to making futsal a cornerstone of its developmental strategy alongside women’s football, is allocating a record budget to this effort. President Philippe Diallo disclosed, “The Federation is making an unprecedented commitment, with an investment of nearly €18.5 million spanning 2022 to 2025. This represents a significant and crucial effort. Our ambitions are high. Through this plan, we aim to propel France to the forefront at both European and global levels.”
“Our objective is for our team to advance from the qualification stage to compete in the 2024 World Cup. This achievement would be a first in such a tournament. To support this elite endeavor, we are establishing a comprehensive training pipeline in collaboration with the National Technical Directorate. This investment in training is the key to our future success. Additionally, it was imperative for the FFF to endorse women’s futsal, leading to the creation of the Women’s National Team. Moreover, our aspirations encompass bidding for the hosting of the UEFA Euro 2026. Such an accomplishment would send a resounding message, solidifying our commitments.”
Vital Figures in Futsal
- €18.4 million: The total budget allocated to Futsal by the FFF from 2022 to 2025.
- 38,328: Registered Futsal players (+14%), including 3,739 females.
- 1,582: Futsal clubs, 126 of which are certified.
- 200,000: Participants in school sports (40 specific sections in middle school; 18 in high school).
Highlighting a consistent annual growth of about 10%, the Futsal license category boasts approximately 40,000 registered players, with nearly 250,000 participants overall. “Futsal is the foremost sport in schools. Our objective is to establish a futsal program in every district. Every league has one now; progress is gradual,” expressed Philippe Lafrique, a member of the Executive Committee. Futsal’s popularity has surged, and its prominence in the realm of school sports is evident.
National Team Developments
French National Futsal Team
- Elite Tour qualifiers for the 2024 World Cup: Six matches scheduled in September, October, and December against France, Slovakia, Germany, and Croatia. Home matches will take place at the Espace Mayenne in Laval.
- Objective: First participation in a World Cup final phase, set in Uzbekistan from September 14 to October 6, 2024.
Raphaël Reyanud, the coach of the French National Futsal Team, recalled, “We achieved our goal of qualifying for the Elite Tour, the final stage before the World Cup. We secured the top spot in our group ahead of Serbia and Norway. Qualification matches are approaching rapidly; we’ll be in Slovakia on September 16 before hosting Germany. Our matches in Laval are sold out, with more than 3,000 attendees. Croatia poses a significant challenge, being historically strong. Our aim is 2026, with the prospect of potentially hosting the European Championship, featuring more mature players developed through the French system. However, our primary focus is on being present at the 2024 World Cup in Uzbekistan.”
Bid for Euro 2026
- The FFF’s candidacy for hosting UEFA Euro 2026, is scheduled from January 20 to February 8, with the final dossier submission in mid-October. A decision will be reached by the European governing body in December 2023.
Philippe Lafrique explained, “Our candidacy is the pinnacle of the FFF’s commitment. Following the letter of intent, we’re due to submit the final dossier on October 11. Other contenders include Latvia, known for hosting futsal competitions, Lithuania, which hosted the previous World Cup, Belgium, an established futsal nation that hosted the Euro in 2014, and Finland, a rapidly advancing country that excels in youth competitions and invests significantly. The verdict will be delivered during UEFA’s Executive Committee meeting in mid-December.”
Creation of the Women’s National Futsal Team
Following the introduction of the U23 squad in 2022, which bolstered the roster of existing youth national teams (U19 established in 2017, U21 in 2008), the FFF’s Executive Committee approved the creation of the Women’s National Futsal Team, set to begin competing in the 2023-2024 season.
This inaugural women’s team, led by Pierre-Étienne Demillier, former coach of the U21 futsal team from 2019 to 2022, will participate in the preliminary qualifiers for UEFA Euro 2025 next spring.
“Our intentions with the women’s team were to avoid any lag, which we experienced with the men’s team. This approach aligns with the establishment of a national competition,” said Raphaël Reynaud, paving the way for the newly appointed coach, Pierre-Étienne Demillier. “We are embarking on an uncharted journey, with an empty canvas to write the first pages. It’s a venture that ignites great enthusiasm. Our goal? To establish this team effectively, lay solid foundations, portray futsal positively, and strive for excellence. We will hold our first four-day training camp at CNF Clairefontaine in a month, with around thirty players. Our inaugural match will take place in November against Finland.”
- U19: Competing in the Euro 2023 final phase from September 3 to September 10 in Croatia, alongside the host nation, Portugal, and Spain. In preparation, the FFF has hosted Ukraine for a training camp in August.
- U21: Participating in the traditional Futsal Winter Cup before Christmas.
- U23: Engaging in the World University Championship in June 2024.
“The U23 squad was established last year and will compete in the World University Championship in June 2024. The U19 team has secured qualification for the European finals for the second consecutive time. This accomplishment is a testament to our nurturing system,” affirmed Raphaël Reynaud, also the Director of Lyon’s Futsal Pole, who will pass the baton to Benoît Subrin this fall. Lyon’s Futsal Pole, a unique European structure, accommodates around twenty players for three years. The fruits of this labor are gradually emerging, contributing to the success of the French national team. The upward trajectory is evident among our youth.”
- Expanding to 12 teams, including 3 promoted sides: Hérouville, GOAL FC, and AC Ajaccio.
- Unprecedented reigning champions: Étoile Lavalloise FC (double champions of both the Cup and Championship), qualified for the Futsal Champions League.
- Playoff return since the previous season, with the final scheduled for June 1, 2024.
Around 20 French international players will compete in the D1 Futsal this season, including Abdessamad Mohammed, Souheil Mouhoudine, Sid Belhaj, and Nelson Lutin. Nine professional clubs possess futsal sections: Olympique Lyonnais, FC Lorient, RC Strasbourg, Stade Brestois, FC Metz, AC Ajaccio, Valenciennes FC, Grenoble Foot 38, and USL Dunkerque. In D2 Futsal, 19 clubs are divided into two groups.
- The National Women’s Futsal Challenge was introduced in the 2022-2023 season, with Nantes Métropole Futsal defending its title (final held as a prelude to the D1 Futsal final on June 1, 2024).
- The U18 Challenge debuts this season (final held before the Futsal National Cup-Trophée Michel-Muffat-Joly final on May 18, 2024).
The FFF’s commitment to enhancing the structure of futsal in France, ultimately fostering excellence across all levels, is evident in a multi-faceted developmental plan. Approved by the Executive Committee on March 9, 2023, and ratified by the Federation Assembly on June 10, the development plan encompasses several key goals:
- Establishment of a National Technical Advisor for elite-level futsal from 2023-2024.
- Anticipated launch of a second futsal center by 2024-2025. The first center, situated in Lyon and inaugurated in 2018 under the leadership of Raphaël Reynaud, the current National Team coach, will transition to the stewardship of Benoît Subrin for the U23 and U21 squads.
- Aim to establish at least one futsal program in each district by 2024-2025.
- Creation of a U17 male team by 2024-2025.
- Introduction of a new club license.
Hubert Fournier, the National Technical Director, emphasized, “Structural enhancement stands as a cornerstone of our President’s vision. We’re allocating resources and urging clubs to invest in this domain for greater resilience. Concerning training, the 2024-2025 season will see the opening of a second futsal center. An increasing number of candidates are applying, and it’s disheartening to turn away talent due to limited capacity.”
“We’re committed to supporting our regions by offering a futsal program across all our districts. It’s a resolute decision, and our regions are fully engaged. Furthermore, the club license will accompany club development. Futsal is an enriching addition to French football. Similar to our Spanish and Portuguese counterparts, we aim to integrate it into youth development. Indeed, some professional clubs are already doing so.”
The National Technical Directorate has also organized specialized training for referees and coaches wishing to engage in futsal, preceded by comprehensive training for technical advisors to offer guidance.
A Promising Dawn for French Futsal: Charting a Path to Excellence
This is a groundbreaking blueprint, poised to reshape the very foundation of French futsal. A sweeping development plan that not only underscores the sport’s latent potential for growth and transformation but also symbolizes a defining moment in its evolution. A meticulously crafted roadmap setting the course for futsal’s elevated journey in France.
The countdown to the 2023-2024 futsal season’s inauguration holds a special resonance. This heralds the advent of D1 championship matches, a thrilling prelude to the Elite Tour qualifiers for the 2024 World Cup. At this juncture, the FFF’s resolute vision for the ascendancy of French futsal takes center stage, as it stands poised to become a force to be reckoned with.
At the nucleus of this plan lies the resounding call to elevate elite performance. The spotlight shines brightly on the French National Futsal Team, on the cusp of embarking on the journey to secure a coveted spot in the 2024 World Cup finals. The fixtures against formidable opponents like Slovakia, Germany, and Croatia are illuminated like guiding stars, underscoring the arduous path ahead in their quest for World Cup glory in Uzbekistan.
Yet, the FFF’s vision stretches far beyond tournament triumphs. It reaches toward the future, toward hosting the prestigious UEFA Euro 2026. A candidacy that stands as a testament to unwavering commitment, it holds the potential to etch Futsal’s legacy on a continental scale. The imminent submission of the final dossier marks a significant step, heralding the possibility of an event that could redefine the narrative of European futsal.
Venturing into uncharted territories, the creation of the Women’s National Futsal Team emerges as a beacon of gender equity in sports. Guided by the capable leadership of Pierre-Étienne Demillier, this pioneering squad embarks on a journey to establish a foundation that elevates women’s futsal in France. Their participation in the UEFA Euro 2025 qualifiers stands as a milestone, reflecting the strides made toward a more inclusive future.
The contours of this plan encompass not just matches and tournaments, but a comprehensive restructuring of French futsal’s framework. The establishment of a National Technical Advisor and the impending launch of a second futsal center resonates as testaments to the growing allure of the sport. Envisioning a landscape where futsal thrives across age groups and regions, underpinned by robust training programs, this approach sets the stage for a brighter future.
As the curtain rises on this futsal development plan, it paints a vivid tapestry of the sport’s future in France. Its implications ripple beyond the court, resonating within the broader sports ecosystem. A symphony of strategic endeavors, it pledges to nurture talent, foster excellence, and construct a holistic framework. This symphony echoes the FFF’s steadfast commitment to propelling futsal to unprecedented heights, ensuring its legacy for generations to come. With this roadmap unfurled, the journey commences, promising an exhilarating trajectory for the ascent of French futsal.
The author of the article
Stephen McGettigan was born in the Republic of Ireland but grew up in Belfast. He is the founder of Futsal Focus, a Football Industries MBA graduate from the University of Liverpool Management School, and he has worked in the Football and Futsal industries for 15 years.
Futsal Focus is a supporter of Dáithí Mac Gabhann and his family’s campaign to raise awareness of Organ Donation. We encourage our readers to learn more about Organ Donation: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/
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