Olympic futsal: romantic dream or rational hope?
Yet the push for futsal to join the Olympic programme continues. The sport’s hopes were raised significantly, perhaps for the first time, just over a year ago. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, first mentioned in an interview to Brazilian site Globo Esporte in February 2015 that the IOC had not forgotten futsal despite its absence from the Rio games. A pathway to Tokyo 2020 (or, even perhaps, to Beijing 2022) might have to detour through Buenos Aires, featuring first in the Youth Olympic Games that the Argentinian capital will host in 2018. FIFA then took the next step in September 2015, announcing without much fanfare that futsal will indeed replace football at the Youth Olympic Football Tournament in Buenos Aires.
FIFA and the IOC have long had a thorny relationship, which may have a lot to do with why futsal is not yet an Olympic sport despite fulfilling all the required conditions to become one. When Rio was selected to organise the 2016 Olympic Games, the futsal world had reasonable hopes that the sport with most participants in the hosting nation (yes, that’s futsal!) would be featuring in the games for the first time. However, it was not to be.
Officially, for the IOC futsal is just a branch of football, which is regulated by FIFA. With a limit on the total number of athletes that can compete in any given games, the 12 football teams already push FIFA’s quota in the games. Yet money, in this case, might break this impasse rather than being the impediment. FIFA are not necessarily keen on a second worldwide tournament sandwiched between World Cups, a tournament where profits fill IOC’s pockets rather than FIFA’s. Conversely, the Futsal World Cup is a much smaller business that may benefit from the extra exposure brought in to futsal by coming into the Olympic programme and eventually increase the flux of cash towards football’s (and futsal’s) governing body.
Are we just dreaming or has futsal really got a hope to be an Olympic sport?
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— The IFA (@IFA_Futsal) September 1, 2016