There was huge excitement on the 5th May when Gibraltar played its first ever official UEFA Women’s Futsal International match against Belgium. The Tercentenary Sports Hall was buzzing and packed full of raucous fans with nearly 600 spectators, including lots of young girls, watching the Gibraltar National Women’s Futsal team make history by becoming Gibraltar’s first ever Women’s National Team to take part in an official competitive International match since joining UEFA and FIFA. The young players, many of whom are still in their teens, put in a superb performance against Belgium, only being denied a win on penalties after a 3-3 draw after extra time. Although it was initially scheduled to be played as a group qualifier with Belgium and Kazakhstan as opponents, the departure of the latter from the group meant that Gibraltar’s match against Belgium became a knock-out contest.
Just what is futsal and what are the differences between the game and football? The main difference is that futsal is usually played indoors while football is an outdoor sport. There are 5 players on each team and the game is known to be fast and intense and has a very different set of rules than 11-a-side football.
Head of Women’s Football at the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) Laura McGinn explains how futsal came to Gibraltar. “It all started a couple of years ago when I went on a UEFA course and met the head coach of the Northern Ireland Futsal team who asked if we would be interested in having a friendly international fixture,” she explains. “At the time we didn’t have a national futsal team but we did play a futsal cup competition, so I came back and spoke to the board and the technical director and asked them if this was something we could do.” This resulted in the setting up of a national futsal team that went on to play Northern Ireland in two friendly matches, once in Gibraltar in 2019 and the other in Northern Ireland in January 2020. “We were performing well and could see a lot of potential in the squad,” Laura states, adding that the standard is very high in women’s five-a-side futsal.
Laura came to Gibraltar in the summer of 2018 having done Sports Science and Physiology at university and then working for three years at Worcestershire FA in England where she was Football Development Officer. “I helped them to develop women’s football, walking football and veteran’s football and then I saw this job advertised on Twitter and thought it sounded like a great opportunity, and as it was the first time someone would be heading up women’s football full-time it was very exciting, particularly as there is so much potential here.”
Still now only twenty eight years old, Laura didn’t know anyone when she came here and had to quickly learn about women’s football in Gibraltar and started by getting involved in the programmes that were already running and helping to set up new ones. “We have managed to get younger girls involved with the Fun Fridays programme which are turn-up-and-play sessions for 4-10 year olds at the Victoria Stadium.”
Gayle Langtry, Europa FC women’s player coach, and national team coach for the futsal squad, has been the manager since the futsal team started. “Gayle knows a lot of the players and had played and coached with them, so she had some ideas about who would be a good fit for the team,” Laura states, adding that in 2019 Jamie Bosio joined the coaching staff. “Jamie is assistant coach with a good background in futsal, and he has really helped to develop the team.”
Laura says that although the National Women’s Futsal team technically lost their match to Belgium, it was a still a triumph and a huge achievement. “One of the reasons that we wanted to host here in Gibraltar was so that the youngsters could come and watch some role models. Belgium is a big footballing nation in futsal so it was a really exciting game and it means that futsal is going to become more widely known in Gibraltar, and in a few years’ time there will be even more players for our national team,” Laura says.
Inspiring the next generation of players is hugely important and some of the futsal team players went along to watch the younger girls training sessions after the tournament. “The girls had come along to the tournament with their faces painted and waving banners so some of the team went to thank them for their support and signed a few autographs, and the girls were totally in awe to be able to meet their heroines.”
Laura says that this will spur them on and help them to see the opportunities that are available to them. “It is not just a case of always seeing men playing football because they can actually watch women play now, so the more we raise the profile, the more that parents will think it is natural to take girls to football.”
If you have budding futsal players between 9-12 years of age, as of the 23rd May, Girls Futsal Sessions are starting at the Victoria Sports Hall (Old Sports Hall) every Sunday from 10:00 – 11:00 am. The sessions are free of charge and will be coached by players and staff from the Women’s National Futsal Team.
There is no doubt that with the expertise of Laura, Gayle and Jamie, the future of women’s futsal in Gibraltar is very bright.