In 1895 Charles Miller, an English railway worker, travelled from Southampton to Sao Paulo in Brazil. In his suitcase he carried two footballs and an FA rule book. Today Miller is regarded as the father of Brazilian football.
The game grew within the cities and soon space for football pitches was at a premium, as a result in the 1930s a smaller version of the game developed – Futebol de Salão played on a hard court with a handball.
The game developed into quite a phenomenon in Brazil and by the 1950s Futebol de Salão (which by then had been formalised by rules, regulations and competitions) was more popular in terms of participation than conventional football.
The game became standardised to a size two heavily weighted ball which only had a 10% rebound, compared to the conventional ball of 40% rebound.
All children in Brazil began their football education with Futebol de Salão, it was played by all of the great Brazilian players from Pele to Ronaldinho. It is the sport through which they learned to play football.
Today the game has almost died out in Brazil.
In the 1980s FIFA the world governing body for 11-a-side football researched small sided football around the world in its many different forms and varieties. FIFAs aim was to develop a second game for similar marketing, merchandise and televisions rights as the conventional game.
"All Children in Brazil began their football education with Futebol de Salão, it was played by all of the great Brazilian players from Pele to Ronaldinho"
Futebol de Salão was examined but dismissed by FIFA primarily because the ball would not be picked up by camera for the world’s television audience and secondly the nature of the weighted ball removed elements of the 11-a-side game, particularly long distance shooting, heading and longer passing.
A Spanish version of small sided football, futsal, (which means the exact same as Futebol de Salão – ‘football of the hall’) but uses a size 4 ball with a 30% rebound was adopted by FIFA. The two games are very different and the Confederacao Brasileira de Futebol (CBF – Brazilian Football Federation) took convincing by FIFA over many years to make the change from their original game to the new game.
The CBF eventually did concede and were rewarded handsomely for this and given unique privileges in comparison to other governing bodies. Without Brazil onboard, the game would not have the same attraction and carry the same weight in convincing other countries to do the same.
Fortunately young Brazilian players were not affected by the change and Futebol de Salão continued as it was but only until the mid nineties, under 9s played with a size half ball (10% rebound), a little larger than a cricket ball, under 12s with a size 1 ball (10% rebound) and older players with a size 2 ball (10% rebound).
Concerns were raised by former greats in the game that the tool that was used to develop the unique Brazilian players was being taken away by FIFA with no regards to the effects the change would have on player development in Brazil. The shift did eventually occur and the ball changed from 10% to 30% rebound and the size increased from size 2 to 4.
On hearing the game was dying out and the impact Futebol de Salão had on the development of players who had graced the game at the highest level Simon Darcy Clifford travelled to Brazil, the first Englishman to do so with the intention of researching the Brazilian game. On arrival he found it very difficult to source the balls and worked with players (Rivelino, Zico, Careca and particularly Juninho who played for a team Clifford supported, Middlesbrough) and clubs (Flamengo, Vasco de Gama, Botafogo, Fluminense and Sao Paulo).
On his return to the UK Clifford launched Brazilian Soccer Schools, determined this sporting jewel would not be lost to the world.