Futsal and Party in the Park at Wetherby Park on Thursday

Party in the Park

Wetherby Park (2400 Taylor Dr, Iowa City) — Thursday, Aug. 3 at 5:30 p.m.

Wetherby Park — photo by Lauren Shotwell

Futsal is coming to Wetherby Park on Thursday, when the ribbon is cut at the opening of city’s newest sports court. The court is designed to be used for two sports: basketball and futsal.

The ribbon-cutting event will feature a futsal demonstration. A demonstration is needed, because most people have no idea what futsal is.

“It’s not a word that’s really come into our lexicon yet,” said Dan Lanning of the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department.

Futsal was invented in Uruguay in 1930, and is sometimes called mini-soccer. Its official name is a mash-up of the first syllables of the Spanish words for soccer (fútbol) and room (sala).

Futsal is based on soccer, but was designed to be played in gymnasiums during inclement weather. The ball is smaller, and so are the teams. There are only five players on each side, four in the field and a goalie. The rules closely follow those of soccer.

But what most clearly separates futsal from soccer is the pace of the game.

“It’s a lot faster,” Lanning explained. “Soccer is a game that’s all about managing space, both as a team and as an individual player. But in futsal, you have much less space to work with. The field is smaller, the opposing players are closer to you than they normally are. You have to play faster. Players have to think faster.”

“It’s hard to get open to receive a pass, or get space to take a shot. It really forces you to work on your ball skills, and your passing and shooting, because you don’t have as much time on the ball.”

Futsal has been popular for decades throughout Latin America, where it is played both indoors and outdoors. In the United States, a national futsal league was established in 1981. The sport has a small but active following in Iowa City, although it is largely confined to pick-up games on basketball courts in gymnasiums.

The outdoor court at Wetherby Park is the first venue in Iowa City designed to be used for futsal.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be part of this week’s Party in the Park, a weekly series of free events sponsored by the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department every summer. There will be live music and a performance by the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre, as well as arts and crafts projects and a basketball skills competition. Ice cream will be served.

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