Oakville Futsal Club facilities a hit with soccer coaches, players

 Tom Milligan is among those who have a theory on how to increase Canada’s ranking in soccer, the world’s most popular sport.

There  are four ways to play the game — from the slowest surface, sand, to the  fastest, futsal flooring. In between are artificial turf and grass.

“Look  at a country like Brazil,” said Milligan, who along with his wife  Heather owns and operates the Oakville Futsal Club (OFC) on Wallace  Road. “They are dominating the speed (thinking) and slowness  (technical). You bring it to the middle and what happens? Everything  becomes simple for them.”

The two largest soccer organizations in  North America in terms of participation — the Oakville Soccer Club and  the Burlington Youth Soccer Club — seem to agree with Milligan. They’re  the two main tenants Milligan has at his impressive facility, which  houses a totally padded state-of-the-art futsal field.

Futsal is a  five-on-five version of soccer played on a smaller field — indoor or  out — that forces a player to think and react quickly. A futsal ball,  heavier than a regular soccer ball, has little bounce on the futsal  flooring. Most players love the constant intensity it provides, forcing  both the possessor of the ball and defenders to react in a flash.

“(Canada)  has the athletes, we have the participation, but we haven’t dominated  the extremities,” says Milligan. “It’s not just hopping on a field and  practising more, (it’s) getting your brain thinking different aspects of  play.”

Not only has Milligan’s facility drawn the area’s two  biggest clubs, but it is renting field time to an Oakville outlet of the  largest private soccer club in North America, Rush Academy based in  Colorado. Other groups such as Future Girls Oakville also have time  booked. Milligan says running the place is “the opposite of a 9-to-5  job.”

The complaint Milligan hears most is that he should have five or six of the fields in operation.

“We’ve  got to think of the business aspect,” he laughed. “On Oct. 15 we’ll be  90 per cent of capacity. That’s a good business story.”

Part of the appeal of the place is the set-up, which Milligan designed with coaches and players in mind.

“Coaches  are super happy,” he says. “They just stand up there (at the front of  the field) with their notes. The parents are away from the field (there  are no sidelines).”

Eddy Berdusco, a former professional futsal player in Europe who now coaches OSC’s under-8 boys’ team, loves the facility.

“It  has proper futsal nets and flooring which is safe for the kids,” he  says. “They’re not afraid of hurting themselves with all the padding.  It’s such a fast game, you have to be able to control the ball and make  quick decisions.”

Milligan hasn’t forgotten about the parents, though.

He  has a glassed-off seating section and a large flat-screen television  where parents can watch their kids’ practice remotely or turn on regular  TV to relax after a busy day.

Rules mirror regular soccer but  there are kick-ins instead of throw-ins and, of course, the number of  players is five-on-five plus a goalie, and sometimes four-on-four for  older, more talented teams.

Regular futsal has space on the  sidelines but this facility’s dimensions made that impossible. The  sideline walls, therefore, are inbounds but not the endzone walls.

One  other house rule is more personal. Milligan, who has suffered numerous  concussions while playing amateur soccer and hockey, does not allow  heading the ball in his facility.

“It’s not just for insurance  purposes,” says Milligan, who has kids three, six and nine years of age.  “I can see the day coming when headers are banned unless you’re at the  professional level. In the U.S., there are no headers (in games) up to  age 14.”

While there are no imminent plans to build another  facility, Milligan has purchased an adjoining unit, which he will  convert to a practice facility to complement the futsal field.

Kevin  Nagel is the sports editor of the Burlington Post and the Oakville  Beaver. He can be reached at . Follow him on  Twitter and the Burlington Post on Facebook 

Written by Kevin Nagel, Photo courtesy of Nikki Wesley