ATKINS — Ronaldinho and Neymar are considered by many to be the most technical players to ever play professional soccer.
Both players grew up in Brazil and honed their immense talents playing the game of futsal, a variation of soccer that is played on a hard court with a smaller, heavier ball and has been popular internationally for decades.
Former Cedar Rapids Rampage professional soccer player Bobby Hurwitz is providing high school soccer players in Eastern Iowa the opportunity to play futsal in preparation for the upcoming prep outdoor soccer season.
“Futsal is 4-on-4 with a goalkeeper,” Hurwitz said. “It is a very, very fast, action-packed game. It really allows the players to understand what triangle offense and triangle pressure, cover defense is. If you don’t play it correctly, in a triangle with correct positions, it makes it very difficult.”
Hurwitz has organized a high school futsal league that will begin Jan. 11 with six boys’ teams and four girls’ teams. Each team will play 10 game-schedule that will be staged on Saturdays at the Atkins Elementary School gymnasium, which will be carpeted with non-stick turf.
“It really helps the technical aspects of the game,” Hurwitz said. “It is a lot different than a real ball. It is a lot different than being on grass or turf with black beads. It is just something really essential for player development.”
The regular season will conclude March 14. A charity event, which will feature matches between the top two teams for each gender and an all-star game pitting the best league players against professional players from the Major Arena Soccer League and the United Soccer League, will benefit the non-profit organization iasports.org and will be held on a date and location to be determined.
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A second charity event will be staged Feb. 23 and will include former Rampage player/coach Hewerton Moreira and former Rampage players Jon Pachar and Tony Walls.
Hurwitz played three indoor seasons in the Major Arena Soccer League and two in the Premier League of America for the Rampage and Rampage United (2015-18), which included the first professional futsal match in the history of the state of Iowa. Hurwitz scored two goals for the Rampage in a 9-5 loss to Major League Futsal’s Kansas City Cyclones at Cornell College in May 2017.
“It really allows for proper technique and touch,” Hurwitz said. “If you can control a futsal ball on a gym floor or even on a carpeted turf, you can control anything.”
Hurwitz also heads Benton County Soccer Training — a program with 60 kids that teaches indoor soccer skills to the individual player — with former Rampage and current MASL goalkeeper Rainer Hauss.
Hauss and former Rampage and Iowa City High player Fernando Pacheco will assist Hurwitz in the administration of the high school futsal league.
Benton Community, Iowa City High and Vinton-Shellsburg will be represented in the girls’ futsal league. Interested teams for either gender can contact Hurwitz via text message at 224-475-9189, or through Benton County Soccer Training via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through their Facebook or Instagram accounts.