Bringing Brazillian football to the borough
Thursday 15th January 2015 @ 15:55 by Mark Phillip
Ashton Denton & Audenshaw Droylsden Dukinfield Football Hyde Sports Stalybridge

A fast-flowing version of the beautiful game is set to take over Tameside thanks to the vision of a local football fanatic.

Neil Lucas (right)

Neil Lucas (right)

Neil Lucas, who is the founder of Sala Soccer Schools Academy, has assigned himself the mission of bringing some Brazilian flair to the English sport.

Having originated in South America during the 1930’s, the alternative version of football, commonly known as ‘futsal’, is being rapidly introduced to cities across the country in a bid to enhance players abilities in several areas.

Ball retention, quick play and passing are key components of the fast-tempo game which bears certain similarities to five-a-side football.

However, as five-a-side fails to seal the approval of international footballing bodies including Fifa and Uefa, it appears Sala is on the right track to make shockwaves on English territory.

Despite emerging from the Brazilian favelas over 80 years ago, the style of play and creativity that emanates from the sport plucked at Neil’s heart strings.

Questioned where his love for the game came from, he stated “It’s a great sport that has developed some of the finest players in the world and Socrates who is one of my favourite players also played competitively.

“I did some research a few years ago and I noticed that some children from Brazil had a lot more skill and technique than English kids and I wanted to see them play with skill and imagination.”

Having taken his children to coaching classes when they were younger, Neil noticed a severe lack of contact participants had with the ball which sent alarm bells ringing. He added “When my children were young I took them to some coaching sessions and was frustrated by the lack of time they had with the ball and the research I undertook made me realise that to become better you have to make sure you get lots of touches with the ball.”

From there on out, Neil made it his priority to enhance children’s aptitude in all forms of the game and a trip to Barcelona two years later beckoned.

His journey to Spain’s second largest City reaped dividends too, as he was enlightened on how gifted Spanish youngsters were in the sports technical areas.

Questioned about the prime objective of the trip, Neil said “I went to Barcelona’s academy and saw how they developed their players and futsal was an integral part of it really.

“I think our kids are just as good as the Spanish, but they do lack in off the ball movement.

“In England, you play the ball and admire the pass whereas the Spanish are great when it comes to moving off the ball”

In addition to realising how one of the world’s best clubs nurtures its future stars, Neil also took an Under 12’s and Under 13’s squad to the city to play the Spanish giants.

Despite both squads losing to their Spanish counterparts, Neil admitted the experience was ‘amazing’ and hinted at a repeat visit. He said “We’re currently looking at booking a trip next year to Marfil Santa Coloma and within that trip we’re hoping to drive down South to play Levante and Valencia.”

In the meantime though, the servant of Sala will continue to develop players through sessions daily at various venues across the borough, including Fairfield High School, Mossley Hollins High School, and Wright Robinson Sport College.

Although football and futsal have striking contrasts, the latter has equipped players with skills that have rewarded them with contracts at professional clubs. “Over four years we’ve had 40 children signed by professional clubs, including Manchester United, Man City, Everton, Liverpool and Bradford City” Neil said.

“Children have come to sessions form as far as Bolton and Bradford and I even had one player who came from Chesterfield.”

The distance budding stars are willing to travel in order to train with Neil is testament to the quality that is offered weekly.

With a technical foundation now in place, he hopes that in future times the sport will be popularised just as the traditional game has been.

“We want children to have a sense of achievement as they learn a skill they’ve seen on TV and we definitely want players to come and play with imagination and without fear.

“If you look at Brazil, more people play futsal than football but that’s been built up over 78 years.

“In Oldham they’ve started adult futsal leagues and hopefully if the adults try some futsal during the week they’ll take their children with them. It’s essentially about changing the culture.”

Neil’s four year stewardship over the sport has certainly been rewarded, but despite amassing a number of credible achievements, the FA qualified coach has no plans of stopping. He said “I just want to keep it growing, turn children out as footballers and hopefully become the best technical provider for them.”

Those interested in taking part in the sport can find out more information on: www.salasoccerschools.com or contact Neil himself on 07790779007