FIFA prepares referees for 2021 Futsal World Cup in Lithuania

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On Monday, FIFA published the 2020 edition of the FIFA Global Transfer Market Report.

The world football governing body, FIFA, has recommitted itself to the success of the Lithuania-hosted international indoor football competition, the 2021 Futsal World Cup. Futsal is a small hard court football game that is mainly played indoors with similarities to five-a-side football. Each team is allowed an unlimited number of substitutions but only five players each at a time, one of whom is the goalkeeper.

The world championship for Futsal is held every four years, originally on the even year between two football World Cups. The very first event was held in 1989, in the Netherlands to commemorate the popularity of the game in the northwestern European country. In the last edition of the tournament in Colombia in 2016, South American football powerhouse Argentina won its first ever Futsal title.

Plans are already afoot for the next FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania. The 2021 edition will be the ninth FIFA Futsal World Cup, to be contested by the men’s national teams of the member associations of FIFA. It will mark the first FIFA tournament ever hosted by Lithuania and the first Futsal World Cup in Europe since 1996, when Spain hosted.

Originally, based on the initial scheduling of hosting the Futsal Cup in between the World Cups, the tournament should have taken place last year, from 12 September to 4 October 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted that and forced FIFA to shift it to now hold between 12 September – 3 October 2021.

Part of the preparations behind the scenes for a hitch-free organisation of the tournament is a preparation for match officials tagged “The Road to Lithuania 2021”. This came to reality thanks to the vision, and commitment of FIFA Referee Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina and FIFA Director of Refereeing Massimo Busacca.

Their leadership empowered a group of Futsal refereeing specialists (one from each Confederation) to develop a strategic plan to train and prepare the top Futsal refereeing prospects for the opportunity to work at a FIFA World Cup, which is the pinnacle of the sport.

Entailing a process of development, this group of specialists started by revamping the Futsal Laws of the Game in order to make them more player and referee friendly. This was why it was of extreme importance to have a competent group of futsal experts (coaches and players) involved in the process from scratch.

This rewriting involved countless hours of meetings and analysis of match situations to craft Futsal Laws that could be uniformly and consistently interpreted.

The concluding aspect of the “Road to Lithuania 2021” is the preparation of the 76 FIFA Futsal Referee Candidates, constituted of 10 women and 66 men from 52 different countries and from all Confederations. COVID-19 pandemic aside, FIFA has been able to offer virtual courses to the cross-Confederation referee candidates with the objective to ensure correct and consistent application of the Laws of the Game.

By an extensive catalog of video clips, expert instructors have been providing candidate-referees with the most updated training and information required. This helps in ensuring that each one is optimally prepared to excel if called upon to officiate in Lithuania later this year.

With the singular objective to make certain that the selected referees are perfectly prepared and set to provide elite performances on the world’s stage, numerous and extensive courses (both virtually and in-person) have been scheduled over the months preceding the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™.

This ambitious process was praised by Brian Hall, who is a member of FIFA’s Referees Committee supervising Futsal. Brian said: “The Road to Lithuania 2021 is a first in the preparation of FIFA’s best Futsal referees and speaks highly of FIFA’s focus to provide the highest quality officials for their top Futsal competition.

“It highlights FIFA’s commitment to provide only the best referees for the Futsal World Cup. Every effort is being made to engage the pool of referee candidates almost nine months prior to the first match. As the referees begin their journey on the Road to Lithuania, they will be challenged both mentally and physically and they will need to earn the right to step on the pitch in Lithuania.

“The aim is to reach uniformity and consistency in their way of officiating games and in taking decisions”, Hall noted.

By August, a selection process will pick out 38 referees, whose responsibility will be to officiate games during the most important Futsal competition in the world. The FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™ will be played from 12 September to 3 October 2021 in the cities of Kaunas, Klaipeda and Vilnius.

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