Regular readers and listeners of Football in Berkshire will be more than aware of the fantastic football provision that this county has to offer, and for a relatively small town, Reading itself boasts teams of all levels. From Reading FC (both men’s and women’s teams) based at the Madejski Stadium, to the hundreds of diehard Sunday League players who take to the pitch week in, week out in all weathers. But it’s not only football that is thriving in Reading. Turn up to Bradfield College or the Wren School nearly any day of the week and you’ll find a Reading Royals Futsal team training or playing.
Futsal is a growing sport in the UK, and more and more of us are having our eyes opened to its charms. Small-sided, fast paced and technical, the South American flare makes futsal a fantastic game to play at all ages, as well as spectate. It’s not just indoor five-a-side as many people think, and if you’re looking to find out more you can listen to Sarah Thompson explaining the ins and outs in her Berkshire Football Stories podcast. However, despite its growth in popularity in recent years, unfortunately, there is still a relatively small pool of futsal clubs playing at a high level and providing development opportunities for youngsters.
Reading Royals is the only fully dedicated futsal club in Berkshire. Founded in 2013 by FA licensed Head Coach Fernando Silva, the club has gone from strength to strength. The club has a junior section, made up of teams and academy sessions for players aged between 5 and 16 years old, all aiming to develop the next generation of futsal players. After turning 16, the club has a senior section with two men’s teams and a women’s team competing at a different levels.
The men’s first team compete in the National Futsal League Premiership South, of which they were recently crowned champions, while the men’s development team compete in the National Futsal League Championship South. The National Futsal League was the highest league for futsal in England until the creation of the FA National Futsal Series in 2019. Many clubs, including the Royals, decided to stay with the committee led National Futsal League rather than applying to the FA run National Futsal Series, and both leagues still provide extremely competitive levels of futsal. As an example of the level of competitiveness, Royals boast several players who represent England and other international sides, such as Jordan Matthews (England U21s), Connor Millar (Northern Ireland) and Charlie Philpott (Wales).
At the beginning of the 2019/20 season, the club also created a new women’s team with the help of the FA Grow the Game fund. Attracting women from local football clubs looking to try out the sport, as well as more experienced players, the team developed at pace. As there is no women’s section of the National Futsal League, the club entered a team into the Hampshire Women’s Futsal League, travelling to Farnborough to play matches. Despite a few tough games, the women’s team finished the season at the top of the league with a healthy goal difference of +14. They also made it to the quarter finals of the FA Futsal Cup, which unfortunately was postponed/cancelled due to the coronavirus situation. A win at this stage of the competition would have seen them head to St. George’s Park for the final rounds. Looking ahead, the women’s team have applied to the FA National Futsal Series for the coming season, which would see them pitted against some of England’s top women’s futsal teams.
Yet, there’s so much more to life as part of Reading Royals Futsal Club than league standings and prestige. The club is run by a dedicated group of volunteers and is generously supported by a handful of sponsors. Without these coaches giving up their time to teach the younger generations and cultivate talent, or the financial support to pay for the numerous training and match days, this club would cease to exist. However, anyone who has worn a Royals badge seems more than happy to give their time and energy to keep this club going (and succeeding) which is a testament to the family atmosphere that Head Coach Fernando and all the coaching staff have constructed through their supportive, enthusiastic and good-natured instruction.
So, for anyone who thinks that there’s more to life than football, they’re right… there’s futsal. Maybe during these football-less times, jump on YouTube and have a look at some futsal highlights, or learn the rules of the game… and I’ll say it again, futsal is NOT just 5-a-side! If you like the look of things, why not give futsal a go?
Reading Royals Futsal Club offers opportunities to players of all levels, both male and female, and for anyone looking to develop some new skills and get involved with a fantastic club, Royals is the place to look.