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Indian Football in the MiddleEast: Mini Soccer ...04/05/2004
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SoccerIndian Football in the MiddleEast: Mini Soccer

-by gasper crasto

Grace, power and pace. Drama, excitement and adrenaline. This is football, the incredible game which has captivated hearts of players and fans all over the world. Football loving Indian expatriates in the Gulf are not immune to the fever either. Throughout the year, one can see players and teams playing their hearts out as they try to better their game with renewed interest and tactics.

Playing in the maiden S.W.E.L (Show World Entertainment & Leisure - an organization to promote sports and entertainment) organized Late Bridgette Misquita Memorial Cup Mini-soccer 7-aside floodlit tournament at
Salmiya, Kuwait, was an experience in learning. Unlike the 7-a-side games at Kuwait's Sour Grounds, played under the banner of Kuwait Indian Football Federation (K.I.F.F),  which are always played on a regular 11-a-side field, the SWEL tournament was played on a smaller field more or less on Mini-soccer guidelines.

Late Bridgette Misquita Memorial Cup Final
The final was played between Navelim Youth Centre (NYC) and US Embassy on
28th April, 2004. The two well matched teams tried their best all through to maintain upper hand in a see-saw battle. US Embassy came out winners (5-4) in the tie-breaker after the normal period failed to break the dead-lock.

Before the kick-off the organizers made a deep impression by handing over self-lighting glowing candles to all the players for a minutes' silence in memory of Late Bridgette Misquita. Lloyd D' Souza delighted the spectators with a running commentary on the match.

Sheikh Mohiddin, Manager - Ashraf & Co - Kodak, and Kapil Kosla, Dy. General Manager - Al Wazan Trading were the chief guests on the occasion and gave away the prizes. Lawry Pinto, President of YRC-Rising Stars, Jeena Misquita, Rita Misquita, Javid Dalvi, Jeevan Pinto, Victor and Harry Misquita were the other distinguished guests present.

Apart from the glittering trophies, players of both the teams were given individual prizes and gifts. Ivo Rodrigues (US Embassy) won the Man of the Match while Gasper Crasto (NYC) was awarded Best Player of the Tournament. Mervin Pereira welcomed the guests and compered the prize distribution ceremony. Joe Misquita of SWEL proposed a vote of thanks.

The final was officiated by Sarto Baptista assisted by Milagres and Michael on the lines. Earlier in the semis, a spirited AVC Club bowed out to US Embassy in the tie-breaker while NYC defeated G.O.A Maroons in a sudden death.  

The success of the tournament can be attributed to the organizers holding the tournament under floodlights and at a prime location in Kuwait, the heart of Indian expatriates - Salmiya. The knock-out tournament played over 4 days attracted 16 teams and a large number of spectators. The festive atmosphere created by the organizers with loud music during breaks also added to the glamour. But the real charm behind the tournament being a sensation was the ground size - a perfect size for mini-soccer, which facilitated electrifying football.  

Unlike the 7-a-side games at Sour Grounds, this tournament provided the ultimate spectrum of mini-soccer with every player involved in the game and even working harder to score. Every game is played to score goals and every hit or miss at goals add to crowd noise which ultimately adds nicely to the ambience of the game. On a smaller field, even the feel and flow of the football itself looks improved and feels so much more a beautiful game. Continuos shooting on target, near misses and excellent saves is so pleasing to spectators, it gives more close calls and more gramma and grandeur to the game.

Another aspect seen is the play of the players off the ball. There are a larger variety of players getting involved in the attack in useful ways and scoring. On a smaller ground, the team always has 2 choices per player, which means on attack a player can charge to the wing or get involved in the middle of the ground. And on defense he can sweep back and forth and get involved in play on offensive. Aside from this strategy, each player behaves far more like a complete player than simply playing his part in his own position of a defender or a forward or a goalkeeper. The setup is more realistic to playing total football where a player can display full skills and draw himself more into the game. With a smaller field, overall quality and standard of players, it gives a fair chance to all teams as players with lesser stamina can contain it through a game and display full potential.

7-a-side football games played under KIFF
Some of the experienced players and die-hard supporters I approached feel that the fifteen minute (seven and a half minutes each half) games that our teams currently play (on a regular 11-a-side field) at Sour Grounds are too short for the players to get the full benefits of seven-a-sides. They all feel that a game of at least two ten minute periods, played on a shorter ground with mini-soccer rules, would be more beneficial to players against the current set up.

The shorter games played under KIFF has innumerable flaws which makes the game so boring. 7-a-side games are usually held with the sole purpose in mind - to increase goal-scoring. Even the great French footballer Michel Platini had proposed to FIFA some years back to reduce the number of players in World soccer to 7-a-side if a game goes to extra time, to enable teams free scoring opportunities and avoid tie-breakers. Trying to play the games in a minimum duration (and on a larger ground) is as good as going for tie-breakers. It is nothing but killing the game.

Unlike professional teams, clubs here in Kuwait consist of only part time players who (with a some exceptions) do not possess enough steam to run even half a kilometre at a stretch. I often hear supporters (who act as unofficial coaches of teams) shouting at their players like, "Don't leave the defense and go to the other end...We will have to get your car to bring you back to your position..." or asking a forward, "Don't fall back, stay in the penalty area...there's no offside..."

With the games being so short, interruption during the game due to fouls and offences, ball out of play, and substitutions, disrupt the fluency of the game. Most often the games are a dull and drab affairs with little or no charm. Given the extra space, an intelligent team with a sound goalkeeper can make the opponents run in circles after taking just a one goal lead. The game can be over without even a semblance of retaliation from the team which is losing. Even some skillful players are seen to shrink their skins on conceding a goal. Lesser skilled teams try their level best to hold opponents to draws and expect some miracle in the tie-breakers. With few attempts at goal, most of the games are goal-less ties where an agile keeper (in all probability) of a lucky team may decide the winner.

As you know, it can take the players fifteen minutes into a game to get a rhythm going, in such a short game, the game is over before the player is even warmed up.

The consistency of Bombay Boys this season may prove me wrong. But one key factor which has achieved them overall success is the leadership of coach Leocardo Machado and the respect shown to him by the players. Leocardo has groomed each player's position and uses them according to their abilities in different versions of the game. The team has matured with training and game experience. There are other established teams in Kuwait with equally good players but due to improper guidance make early exits in tournaments. 

What exactly is Mini-Soccer?
1. The rule differences between Mini Soccer (usually 7 players, one of which is a goalkeeper) and regulation play (11 a-side) relate to the number of players, the size of the field, the size of the goals, the duration of play, the absence of goal areas, elimination of off-side rules, etc.
2. Mini Soccer is usually played on a field designed for that purpose. In many instances, however, games are played within or across standard soccer fields.
Mini soccer fields must conform with the following field dimensions:
a) Length of Field: 55 m - 65 m
b) Width of Field: 40 m - 45 m
c) Penalty Area: Length - 10 m Width - 25 m
d) Centre Circle Radius: 6 m
e) Goal Size: Height - 2 m Width - 5 m
f) Penalty Mark: 8 m
3. Unlimited substitution is normally allowed at the following stoppages of the game: the taking of a goal kick, a corner kick or a throw in.
A smaller field allow players to fully appreciate and enjoy the game, bring out full stamina and display their best skills, and provide pleasing football for the spectators.

If the seven a-side tournaments held under KIFF are played on a League basis, say 16 teams divided in 4 groups each, there will be a total of 24 games in the League, which will require 4 hours (20 minutes duration - 10 min each half) on 2 grounds. The tournament can be completed in a day if there are lesser number of teams. With 16 teams, the League rounds can be played on one Friday, and the semi-finals (winner of Group 1 v/s winner of Group 3; winner of Group 2 v/s winner of Group 4) and the finals can be played on the following Friday with an increased duration of 30 minutes (15 minutes each half). This format will surely attract attention and interest.

There is no questioning on the standard of 11 a-side or 9 a-side tournaments held under KIFF. Different administrators at KIFF have worked untiringly over the years to initiate new ideas and promote the game in a better spirit. With an added extra day (Friday) and additional goalposts, this suggestion may not fit in KIFF's scheduled yearly planner and maybe discarded without any second thoughts. But indeed this should be seen as an innovative venture for the near future, keeping in mind the decline in interest shown by clubs in registering their teams with KIFF every season (last season there were 14, this season there are 12).

The decline can be linked to high expenses incurred by clubs to run 11 a-side teams. Without the backing of a sponsor, it is extremely difficult for clubs to gather a team, or organize tournaments, and even survive. Most expatriate clubs in the
Middle East have become extinct because of this reason. In Bahrain, where Indian expatriate football was once popular, players now hardly get a chance to play as a team. In UAE, most organizers and clubs have been concentrating on mini soccer. We, here in Kuwait boast of the only Expatriate Indian 11-aside League but we lack far behind to par ourselves with the increasing popularity and standards of mini soccer.

When we toured
Dubai to play in the Mini world cup soccer earlier this year, I was amazed to see the high standard of the Dubai teams in the shorter versions. I asked one of my friends there, "Your 11-a-side teams must be better than this..."

He said, "There's only one 11-a-side tournament here, held during Ramadhan by the Goan Cultural Society. We usually practice and play the sevens as there are innumerable tournaments all the year round throughout UAE."

Major Mini Soccer Leagues are played all over the world now. The 7-a-side games are becoming increasingly popular even in India. I have played in open 7-a-side tournaments in Kozhikode and Cannanore (Kerala) which drew more spectators than some of the National tournament games. In
Calcutta, I have seen even blind men enjoying the excitement of such close encounters. Can you imagine? Fully blind people wanting to be part of the spectators in the shouting and cheering atmosphere. Before an enthusiastic spectator or players in Kuwait turn blind with dull and dead games, lets make 7-a-side football what it should be.

I would be pleased to hear what you have to say on the matter, and get the general mood of the players and clubs in general with regards to this which might help KIFF to understand the need to change the pattern of 7-a-side games from a regular field to the standard mini-soccer sized field. It is rare that the public sentiment thinks immorally or unwisely, but the individual who differs from it ought to distrust and examine well his own opinion. If you have an opinion, please share it through the forum


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