In recent years, we have seen a shift in the tides of Philippine sports. While it’s true that basketball is still the country’s most beloved pastime, there has been a steady rise in the popularity of other sports. Johann Casal is a man who does not simply ride these waves of change; he tries to dictate their flow in an effort to promote a game that resides very close to his heart: futsal.
After a long day of meetings, Johann sat down with us to talk about his playing days, the joys and challenges of growing up with the game, and his vision for Philippine futsal.
E-Sports: We know you love football to death, but we heard that you have a thing for futsal too. When did you start getting into the sport?
Johann: I started playing football at Colegio San Agustin. I enjoyed playing the sport, but I had to transfer to a smaller school that didn’t have a field. Given the limited space, I started playing futsal wherever there was an available indoor court.
I’ve been playing futsal more often these days because it’s so much easier to organize the games indoors. I used to play with a small team, and anyone can come by and play with us. It’s comforting knowing you can play under a roofed court, no matter how hot or wet the weather is.
E: Can you tell us more about your efforts to promote the game?
J: I used to run a futsal school with a couple of my friends. While I had my day job at E-Sports, I would have a team that would work on the school’s schedules, while a couple of coaches would set up the curriculum. We would set up the school every summer in my village, and anyone could enroll and learn how to play.
After managing the school for 2 to 3 years, I decided to focus more on building futsal events. Last year, we hosted the first South Futsal Championships. It works like the (UEFA) Champion’s League: Every community in the South has a league and a corresponding futsal tournament. We have leagues in Cavite, Ayala-Alabang, BF, Marcelo, and in Las Piñas.
E: Sharing the game of futsal in a basketball-crazed nation must be a very tall order. A lot of resources and support are funneled into the basketball.
J: Yes, it has been a challenge. When I played for the college team at Perpetual Help, there was little support from the school administration. We barely got by and we were only able to play in two NCAA games. We had to commute by ourselves to play at the ULTRA. During one of our games, we weren’t supplied with any jerseys. We had to borrow used ones from the Juniors team.
I believe that the lack of support for football and futsal is caused by the lack of awareness. We as a people are generally not aware of the sport, and of how big it is in other countries. When you watch the football games abroad, the communities based around the local teams give their full support. As a side note, basketball arenas are limited to 20,000 seats, or less. Football stadiums can comfortably sit over 100,000 spectators.
E: Given the lack of awareness about the sport, what are your plans to introduce futsal to more people?
J: I’m trying to start small by building up futsal communities in villages. Imagine if the basketball courts in all the schools and barangays were also used for futsal. Players would no longer need to travel to BGC or to Makati just to play; if you live in BF or in Alabang, you can always find a Monday or Thursday night game to play in.
E: What are some of the good places to go to for pick-up futsal games? Do you get to invite them to your futsal events?
J: On Monday nights, we have games in BF Phase 1 Village, the San Jose Court in Ayala-Alabang Village, Marcelo Green Village and in Philam Life Village in Las Piñas. Most of the players are regulars, but anyone, from experienced players to beginners, can join in and play.
I organize the games in Marcelo and BF, and I coordinate with the other southern communities to create centralized events. It’s great to play and meet with all the players; we get to invite them to our events and I get to help other tournament organizers host their events. It’s a win-win situation.
E: Before we end, do you have any parting advice for aspiring futsal players or for leaders looking to build their own futsal teams and communities?
J: If you want to start playing, just bring your friends to the nearest basketball court and play. That’s what I did; just invite some people and start playing. I didn’t know anyone when I started playing futsal. I just invited a few players I’ve met to play with and it grew from there. Word spread in our village, and we knew that we were kicking off something interesting. That’s how simple dreams can start.
If you would like to inquire or join Johann’s futsal events, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.