Europe’s futsal referees have taken their latest step on the road to UEFA Futsal Euro 2018 with a preparation workshop in the host country Slovenia. Some thirty referees came to Ljubljana for three days of fitness assessments, practical and theoretical training. UEFA will now select 18 of them – 16 referees and two reserves – as the team of match officials for the tournament at the Arena Stožice in the Slovenian capital from 30 January to 10 February next year.
“We have brought the referees together to give them instructions on uniform consistency in decision-making, and to test their fitness,” said UEFA futsal refereeing instructor Pedro Galán Nieto. “They have taken the FIFA test, and must pass it to be eligible for the Euro.” The training sessions in Slovenia concentrated on the various strengths need by futsal referees to take charge of matches at the highest level. “We looked at speed and agility,” Galán Nieto explained, “because the way that futsal is played requires these two attributes from a referee. You need speed to keep up with play, and agility because you have to change direction a lot of times. The fitness aspect is crucial. Futsal teams at elite level train regularly – so the referees have to be able to match this fitness. We are encouraging UEFA’s national associations to create fitness programmes for their futsal referees.” Referees’ preparation for the Euro will also include studying team tactics and player characteristics – an element that UEFA considers crucial in helping referees get ready for their assignments. “It’s essential – if you can anticipate and understand, this will help you run the game and take decisions,” said Galán Nieto. A key instruction given to the referees who will go to the Euro is to safeguard futsal’s image. “We are asking the referees to protect the players,” said Galán Nieto, “because in doing so, we are protecting the game.” Futsal uses the two-referee system, and teamwork between the match officials is seen as vitally important. “To achieve consistency, futsal referees need to be able to communicate, to be able to align themselves when taking decisions,” Galán Nieto reflected.
UEFA has recently taken a series of strategy decisions to enhance futsal’s profile – these include the Futsal Euro moving to 16 teams and taking place every four years from 2022, a new Women’s Futsal Euro from 2019, the renaming of the main European club competition as the UEFA Futsal Champions League from 2018/19, and the introduction of a European Under-19 championship in 2019. “These are exciting times for everyone in futsal,” said Galán Nieto. “The UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin is a futsal man, he supports our sport, and the new strategy will hopefully help us to recruit more referees to futsal – especially women. The new competitions in particular will provide an incentive for people to become futsal referees”.