The sporting landscape in India has undergone a dramatic change over the last few years with the introduction of different leagues dedicated to every sporting discipline, and it already seems the day is not far when India will be a force to reckon with in the international stage. The Northeast Futsal League (NEFL) is the latest to join the domestic sporting league ecosystem, set to kick-off on August 25 at the NC Bordoloi Indoor Stadium in Guwahati, Assam. The first-ever mixed-gender futsal league, which will feature six teams in total, will be played over a relatively short duration of seven days.
Each of the six teams will consist of eight players in the squad with one coach or player and one manager, with only one female player in the pitch during the play. A minimum of three female players and five male players including two international players (one female and one male) will be a part of each squad. While a match can commence with only three players in a squad, a match may commence with one female and two male players. The matches will be played in the 2×15 minute halves-format with each team changing their ends once the half-time rolls.
With a similar fashion like that of football, the ball is to be played forward once the kick-off hits. A goal, however, cannot be scored directly from the kick-off unless the ball has been touched by another player heading towards the goalpost. The kick-ins, corner kicks, and goal-keeper clearance should be forwarded within a stipulated time of five seconds. The opposing team is required to stand at least three metres away from the ball, the failure to abide by which may result in a yellow card.
Unlike in the game of football, there will be no off-side in the course of the game which gives the players an upper hand to enter the goalkeeper’s D area and score a goal from any part of the court. The goalkeeper cannot leave the D area with the ball in hands and might result in a free-kick for the opposing team if done otherwise. The ball is considered to be out of play provided that it has wholly crossed the goal line or sideline, either on the ground or air or the play has been stopped by the referee.
A direct free-kick will be awarded if a team has accumulated a total of five fouls, making it easy for a player to score directly from this free-kick. In case of the sixth foul, a free-kick must be taken from the 10 metre line or from the point of infringement within the 10 metre line. The league referee has the final call on which goal is to be used for the purpose of a penalty shootout. A penalty shootout will commence upon a coin-toss between two team captains, a total of five players, including the goalkeeper and the substitutes, will be nominated to take the penalty kick. Much like the game of football, two yellow cards in one match will be considered equivalent to a red card, resulting in a one-match suspension.
Aimed at prioritising the sporting landscape for athletes to choose Futsal as a sporting career alternative, the NEFL will be the first major sports league involving all eight Northeast states of India. The league promises to cultivate a fresh crop of unsung heroes, bringing Indian and international players together.