League5 Futsal Tournament

League5 Futsal Tournament is a twice monthly tournament that anyone can take part in

Futsal, a variation on traditional football played with five players on a team and usually indoors, has been around for many years but is now making an impact in the Czech Republic. The national team is currently ranked 17th in the world after qualifying for the last three World Cups and coming third in the 2010 European Futsal Championship and interest in the sport is growing at all levels.

Capitalising on the interest in the sport is League5 Futsal Tournament, a twice monthly tournament that anyone can take part in set up by French ex-freestyle footballer Andrew Argent. Having appeared in a Nike advert alongside Ronaldinho back in 2002 and presented and judged on an indoor soccer programme on French TV with Zinedine Zidane, his credentials are some of the best.

“I came to Prague first because of freestyle football,” says Andrew. “Every year here there is a freestyle football event so I came to participate in 2010, then again in 2011. I went back to France and with a friend decided to return to Prague, so we came to live here and from September when we arrived until February we were thinking about what to do before we started League5.”

Andrew is a sports manager first and foremost, looking after a few young professional French players and freestyle footballers such as world champion Sean Garnier. League5 is his main work in Prague though. The tournament started in February and is open to anyone, locals, expatriates and students. Every two weeks they have a tournament, once a month it is for only Erasmus students and the other time for everyone else.

“I knew there were places here for futsal and indoor soccer during the winter because there are already some leagues that have existed for maybe 20 years with old rules. In League5 there are rules like no slide tackles or making much contact with defenders and the Panna rule. This is when the ball is put between the legs of an opponent and collected on the other side, it counts as one goal. At the beginning people were a bit afraid these rules would not work but now they enjoy it because to Panna a person adds an extra challenge.”

The tournaments are all held in Prague 5’s French high school in their gymnasium, and the school has helped them out a lot. Between 2 and 8pm the games normally take place as, especially students who’ve been out the night before, are unlikely to get up at 8am to play. On tournament days Andrew is the man behind the whistle but he doesn’t run League5 all by himself. Plamena Sotirova helps out with the communication and written side of things and other aspects on the day.

“Andrew is the heart and I am the brains,” says Plamena. “I am doing the communication strategy, all the professional side dealing with companies, sponsors and partners. Andrew gives the ideas and I put it into writing and am responsible for any questions and managing on the day we have the tournament, as Andrew is busy refereeing. I am managing the onsite staff because we do have other people who help us out, such as a professional photographer.”

The photos and a few videos of previous tournaments can be seen on their Facebook page, which provides regular updates on the next tournaments and whether there are any places left. For players wanting to register a team there is a registration fee of around 1500 CZK, which works out at around 160 CZK per person as teams have five players and three substitutes. There are prizes for the winning team and sometimes best player, goalkeeper or Panna, usually a set of team jerseys from sports shop Decathlon or individual prizes like a SIM card with 500 CZK credit from OpenCall.

“For us to be able to find a price fund Andrew communicates with some companies,” explains Plamena. “Already we are trying to find sponsors in the form that they will provide a more attractive price package so we can have nicer prizes for the winning teams. In order for us to be able to pay the rent we have the teams paying a registration fee.”

Andrew adds: “I want to keep this very close with the people, so I don't tell them 'ok just pay and come and that's it', I want to see them before. So I meet them in town and I see who is in front of me and explain the rules and if people are not happy there is no need to come or if they are they pay. I'm not doing this for money though, I'm doing it for people to enjoy. We are very lucky to have more than 20 nationalities together and for people it's nice as we can have China against Colombia.”

Students can of course take part in the international competitions as well, and the standard of teams varies, but because the competition works as two groups of five before progressing to the quarter finals it means every team gets at least four games. So far they have had 35 teams register overall, with ten playing in each tournament, yet no team has been dominant and won twice in a row.

“It helps for the dynamics and I think it helps the other teams to not lose their motivation and think 'I'm going to play against this team and they've been very strong so we don't have a chance'” says Plamena. “If they have good group dynamics and play by the rules there is a chance. Of course they have to have the skills too. The standard is not always the same; sometimes we have amateur teams of friends or workmates, so they don't know how to play with each other or are not set as a team. Then we have teams who have been playing together for five years and have jerseys.”

It’s not just for men either, although they admit 98 per cent of participants have been male so far, with only two females (and one time Plamena played in a friendly).

“We had two girls participate last year in March and October on separate occasions,” says Andrew. “But I'm looking for some teams and have contact with some girls who play futsal for Slavia and I wanted them to come and play but they don't know League5 so are maybe a bit afraid of the rules. Once they come I'm sure they will enjoy it. There is definitely a place for a team of girls here.”

In the near future they are looking at developing another league but Andrew’s biggest ambition is to set up a League5 European futsal league. Of course for either of these ventures to come to fruition they will need some more sponsors, which Andrew believes would allow him to spend more time developing League5. With 35 teams it has already grown significantly in a year, so it would be no surprise if this continues in 2014.

“We would like to develop a League5 corporate competition, maybe even a league, it depends how things go,” says Plamena. “Have a league of 12 teams who play on a weekly basis just one game and then at the end of the season there will be a proper league. Right now League5 is a daily tournament and it's very small, so if we could make is a seasonal thing, especially corporate, then companies can have these as team building, sporting activities for their companies. That's the next step.”

Andrew adds: “I know there are a lot of people playing futsal games within their companies sometimes but I would like to offer the companies the opportunity to play sport against each other in a friendly competition. They have the chance to get to know each other better and it's good for teamwork and for employees’ health after sitting in front of a computer all day. This is what I would love to do in 2014.”

The next tournaments will be in the new year with an international one on Saturday 11th January, Erasmus on the 25th, another international on 13th February and Erasmus again on 1st March.

For more information, updates or to register a team visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/League5FootballAndFutsalTournamentPrague/info

You can also find information on their website: http://con5035.wix.com/league5-praha-int#!untitled/c23os

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