Sports training facility Sport HQ closed out its annual summer futsal program with a final game between FC Barcelona and players from the Capital Area RailHawks’ U16 and U18 teams on Saturday. The two sides ended in a 6-6 draw despite the former having much more familiarity in the sport – an indoor spinoff of soccer – than the latter.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said Camden Harrison, a forward on the RailHawks’ team. “Playing against them is so much more different than playing with them.”
Sport HQ, located in Cary’s MacGregor Village, is currently in its fifth year of operation and its second year in cooperation with FC Barcelona.
The availability of futsal facilities at the establishment has led to an increase of interest in the sport.
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“In the last three years, we have experienced a 30-35 percent increase in participants year after year,” said Chip Thomas, who owns Sport HQ along with his wife Lynn.
Futsal is popular worldwide, with some countries having their own professional leagues.
It is played on a court slightly larger than a basketball court between teams of five players including a goalkeeper.
Its tight spaces and fast pace creates an exciting game. Unlike its outdoor counterpart, teams are allowed an unlimited number of substitutions made on the fly. The sport has been noted for increasing players’ finesse, ball-handling, and creativity.
Though there will be an pro futsal in the United States starting in 2016 with the Professional Futsal League, for now it’s just a way for soccer players looking to better their skills in the outdoor game.
“Futsal is fast and energetic,” Thomas said. “Kids naturally enjoy it and when they go outside to play soccer, they see the rewards of playing indoors in tight spaces.”
Sport HQ’s connection with Barcelona has also helped local players off the field. The two groups on other sides of the world come together and develop a unique camaraderie.
“(The team from Barcelona) have been here for months playing with us, so we got to know them and grew close with them,” Harrison said.