When you compare futsal to soccer, the venues are smaller, the ball is tinier, the passes shorter, but that makes the scores higher and the punch more powerful.
Despite its diminutive manifestations, futsal might be the next big thing in recreational sports.
If twin brothers Esteban and Manuel Mariel had their druthers, all the kids would be playing it. Via their year-old business, Dallas City Futsal, they are teaching some 200 young people the fundamentals of the sport, and holding weekend pickup games to foster enthusiasm for the game.
So, futsal is basically indoor soccer, right?
“Absolutely not. It’s completely different,” Esteban says. “In indoor soccer, the ball bounces off the walls, all over the place. Futsal players have a lot of control and room to make things happen. It is fast moving, high scoring.”
Indeed, after the first half of a 40-minute futsal match at Dallas Lutheran, in which Esteban and Manuel (whom, from a perch in the bleachers, I honestly can’t tell apart) are on opposing teams, the score is 9-6.
Loud hip-hop music blasts through gym speakers as they play — appropriate since the game looks something like a smooth 10-man choreographed dance. No 0-0 scores here.
They got the first taste of futsal during a six-month stint in Brazil, homeland of their mother, Lake Highlands artist Solange Mariel.
Soon after coming home to Dallas, the twins set their sights on returning to Brazil to play professional outdoor soccer. They were invited to do so, at age 17, so they worked overtime to graduate a year early from Lake Highlands High School in 2004.
They played for Brazil’s Cruzerio Esporte Clube for about a year before deciding to return to the states for college.
“Our dad thought education was very important — he encouraged it,” Esteban says.
Did they ever consider doing something separate from one another?
“No way,” Manuel answers. “We are a package deal.” After college, which started at University of Maryland Baltimore County and concluded at Southern Methodist University, came the burnout stage.
“We’d been playing soccer for so many years, we were just kind of tired of it,” Manuel says.
After post-college gigs that included selling eyewear in Las Vegas and starting a nutritional supplement company, they realized the passion, though dormant for a moment, burned for soccer, or some variation thereof.
The twins’ dad, Federico Mariel, had been a futsal fan for years. Explains Mariel, “Unlike its big brother, traditional soccer, futsal is a game of small controlled movements where players are given a lot of contact with the ball and therefore a lot of space to be creative.”
That’s what the twins have come to love about teaching the game, he says.
“He was ahead of his time,” says Esteban. “We were so against it at first,” Manuel adds.
Since high school, they had earned cash on the side teaching soccer lessons. In November 2010, they organized Dallas City Futsal, through which they offer camps, semi-private and private lessons, and tournaments.
“We had the first session at Ridgewood rec center almost exactly a year ago,” Esteban says.
Parent Kristina Peters says her daughter loves soccer, but enjoys it even more since training with City Futsal. “Their philosophy on soccer allows her to play with a much more focused skill set,” Peters says. “What makes this program exceptional, aside from the great coaching, is their personal commitment to the sport and to each child. My daughter trains a lot, and though necessary at the select level, it can be a lot of work. To see her in an atmosphere of no stress, having fun cannot be valued enough.”
Today City Futsal is expanding, holding events at a larger state-of-the-art center and hiring extra coaches.
The Mariel twins recently were selected to play for the U.S. National Futsal team.
“Of course it is a dream come true to play for the national team,” said Esteban. “What I am really looking forward to, though, is how much of this experience I can bring back to my students to hopefully inspire them to become better players.”
Learn more about Dallas City Futsal at dallascityfutsal.com.