Futsal, is not just a sport, for inmates at the Maximum Security Prison at Golden Grove, Arouca, it is a lifeline that they received and one they are willing to extend.
Sunday Newsday visited the Maximum Security Prison last Wednesday when the "new" sport was introduced to remanded inmates. The sport was introduced in the country in 2004 and last year brought to the prison with the aim of helping inmates rehabilitate while awaiting their day in court or their release date.
The man with the "futballs" who brought the sport to the prison is Clayton Morris, the former TT football captain from the Strike Squad of 1989. TT has failed to qualify for two Futsal World Cups but has been crowned Caribbean champions twice since the game was brought to these shores.
From futsal's local inception, at-risk men were targeted as the sport was aimed at reforming men from communities deemed crime hotspots. Addressing the inmates last week, Morris said the first national team consisted mostly of men from impoverished communities.
Morris was asked to bring the programme to the prison by Prisons Commissioner Gerard Wilson, who was present at the launch in Remand Yard.
Speaking with Sunday Newsday, Morris said the acronym Friends United To Save Another Life was coined after they realised the impact the game had on the lives on those playing. The inmates housed at Maximum Security Prison were the first to learn the sport. Then the women and, two Fridays ago, the teenage boys at the Youth Training Centre. Last week, the remandees at Remand Yard in Golden Grove learned the sport. The aim is to have an internal futsal competition with inmates in all of the prisons. Morris is expected to teach the sport in every prison before the year ends. He reminded the inmates that futsal was not small-goal football.
Addressing those gathered, one of the officials of the game Hamid Ali, one of the men accused of murdering special state prosecutor Dana Seetahal, said when he came into the prison there was a Rasta City and Muslim gang war which evaporated with the introduction of the game. He said the war must remain dead and rivalry should only exist on the field.
"We need to be positive people, we have to cut out the war through sports. I am a businessman it have no money in war. This war thing have to done. Don't embarrass those who are going out on a limb for us," Ali admonished those in attendance.
Also speaking was inmate Brendon De Silva, he said futsal "reconstructed" him and taught him discipline, morals and values in life. Another inmate, Jamaican Christopher Scott said he would take the game back to his island. Scott said Morris brought more than a new sport to the prison, he brought a discipline. He added that the development of the men participating was evident.
Wilson, who was welcomed with thunderous applause and a standing ovation, was called "daddy" by the inmates. He told them futsal was his way of repaying them for the support they gave him before he was commissioner. Wilson said with the changes he had seen in the inmates, he was "almost tempted" to allow them to take public transport to other prisons to teach futsal. He said the programme should be a testament to the public that there are people in prison capable of changing their lives.
Assistant Superintendent of Prisons Terry Joseph, assigned to Remand Yard, said he had inmates wanting to go to the Maximum Security Prison just to take part in the game. He told the inmates they should seize the opportunity as futsal could be a vessel to take them where they needed to be in life.
According to FIFA, futsal is a 40-minute game with a 15-minute half-time break. The 20 minutes represent the actual playing time, as the clock is stopped whenever the ball is not in play or if the match is interrupted. The clock only starts again once play resumes.
Each team may request a time-out of one minute per half. This can only be done when the side requesting the break is in possession of the ball, and the timekeeper has been informed. If a coach chooses not to use a time-out in the first half, it cannot be carried over to the second period: he will only have his regulation one time-out left. There are no time-outs if a match goes to extra time.
Each team starts with one goalkeeper and four outfield players on the pitch. Over the course of the 40 minutes, up to nine additional players may be used and these can be substituted on and off an unlimited amount of times. A further feature of futsal is that changes can be made without stopping the game. Substitutions must take place in the clearly designated substitution zone.
If a player commits a foul, the referee can decide to award either a direct or indirect free-kick, or a penalty if the foul took place inside the penalty area. Just like in football played on a grass pitch, yellow and red cards can be issued in futsal. If a player is shown a red card he can be replaced on the pitch by a substitute after a mandatory two-minute time penalty that always follows a red card. If the team concedes a goal during this time, a substitute may enter the pitch before the two-minute penalty has been completed.
Goalkeepers can move anywhere on the pitch and are allowed to throw the ball out into the opposition half. If the goalkeeper has the ball he must play it to a teammate within four seconds, regardless of whether the ball is in his hands or at his feet. The goalkeeper may not take part in his team's ensuing attack, unless the other side touches the ball first or the goalkeeper is in the opposition's half.
All fouls are are accumulated fouls, after the fifth team foul each foul after warrants a free-kick without a wall on the second penalty mark, which is ten metres from goal and four metres behind the first penalty spot. If the foul was made between the byline and the second penalty mark, the free-kick may be taken closer to the goal. If a match goes to extra time the accumulated fouls from the second half remain valid and any further fouls are added to the tally.
Futsal is played with indoors with a size four ball that does not bounce as much as a traditional football. Two referees officiate the game and are situated on each touchline. As there are no side hoardings, the ball can go out of play. If this happens, play resumes via a kick-in, rather than a throw-in or by rolling the ball. There is no offside in futsal.
Originally published on the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday