ASTORIA — The sight was an unusual one. While it rained outside, nearly two dozen elementary school kids raced around on yellowed old wood floors, under the aged lights of the Astoria Armory, playing what looked like soccer, only … smaller.
With a ball that is about half the size of a regulation soccer ball, and wearing cleatless shoes, the boys and girls were playing a game long popular in South American countries called futsal, or “room football.”
“Futsal is a hugely popular sport in many soccer-mad countries, and it is just starting to catch fire here,” said David Plechl, a local soccer enthusiast who organized a local league through the Lower Columbia Youth Soccer Association (LCYSA).
Leagues for kids and adults had their first season in the fall and just started back up again in late January. More than 100 kindergarten through eighth graders were registered for the fall league.
Youth play their games at the Armory on Tuesday nights, while the adults play at the Star of the Sea School gymnasium on Sundays. There is also open play at the Armory on Thursday nights for everyone.
Once their “regular season” was over, the children of Marc Stoddard, president of Peninsula Youth Soccer, were more than happy to try out this other opportunity to play footy.
According to Plechl, Futsal makes for a very fast, very technical game with more scoring and a lot more touches on the ball “in a lot less time than outdoor soccer.” It’s also nice in an area where playing outdoors in the wintertime is not ideal.
“Indoor seemed like a nice solution to that,” said Jerry Boisvert, a former soccer coach at Astoria High School who has been supportive of the new league. “Nobody has to travel, it doesn’t cost as much and you only need six or eight kids per team. It’s easier than finding 18 kids who want to go out in the rain and cold.”
And it’s already drawing players from all around the region. Brady and Tiffany Turner of Long Beach drive their two boys over to play every Tuesday night.
And having something active to do during the cold months is a good thing, for young and old.
“Indoor soccer gives us another good, healthy option for indoor activity,” said Plechl. “Also, we’re helping to get things going at the Armory, which is a tremendous space for all kinds of things.”
In the last nine months, the Armory has re-emerged as a local civic center, hosting the Shanghaied Roller Dolls roller derby team bouts, as well as open roller skating nights. It’s a big space and hosts two futsal matches at a time on the court, which is split horizontally by a net.
The LCYSA looks committed to continuing the indoor soccer leagues going forward, having spent around $6,000 to set up the gyms with the necessary equipment. Boisvert said the goal of the LCYSA is to have three eight- to 10-week seasons in the fall, winter and spring.
“We’re hoping for sponsors,” said Boisvert. “Ultimately, if it’s going to happen, the community will hopefully catch on to this.
“Kids seem to have spoken that they want something different.”
For more information on futsal, or to join a league, visit the LCYSA website: http://www.lcysasoccer.com/