After 106 of wait, the top futsal competition in Italy, the Serie A, started again. The first match, Acqua&Sapone – Civitella was played on 27 September (4-1 was the final result). Many things have passed since Murilo Ferreira, Acqua&Sapone’s captain, raised the most prestigious thropy this past June.The Italian movement lived through complicated and rather paradoxical moments in the last few months, due to problems related to club management and the lack of financial stability in the sport. Here on Futsal Corner, with the help ofour friend Valerio Scalabrelli, we provide you with a summary of the first, difficult half of the year for the Italian futsal movement, along with an analysis of the teams who are fighting for the title.
The credibility of the game in Italy was seriously put in doubt in the past months, starting from the second part of last season. First, a Serie A club, Kaos Futsal, incurred 8 penalty points because involved in a big fake passports case (even though the penalty was canceled later in the year). Then Pescara, one of the most succesful clubs in recent years, announced their withdrawal from the tournament. In addition to that, earlier in the year, Italy got eliminated at the group stage of the Eurocup. During the summer, right after the end of the league, four other teams after Pescara announced they wouldn’t take part in the following season: IC Futsal, Cisternino, the aforementioned Kaos and especially Luparense, the most-winning team in futsal history.
These events brought a lot of uncertainty about the league’s attractiveness and competitiveness, and could affect negatively on the ongoing season.
Some rays of sun
However, new opportunities bloomed from the ruins. The record of enrolled clubs in national leagues (206 between the three tiers, Serie A, A2 and B), a new commercial agreement with Nike, as well as a brand-new streaming platform, helped Divisione Calcio a Cinque president, Andrea Montemurro, regain that respect, both on national and international level, that many thought it was lost forever.
The summer withdrawals led to a 12-team league after a planned expansion to 16. However, rather than an unfunfilled promise, this can be something to be preserved that could give identity to the league. A new spring for Italian futsal is coming. It started on the night of 27 september with the derby between reigning champions Acqua&Sapone and debutants Civitella, won 4-1 by the former.
But here comes the main question: who are the teams fighting for the title, and what are their odds of winning it? Who should rather think about avoiding relegation? Here is our detailed analysis of each one of them.
The Red Zone: Lazio, Latina, Civitella y Arzignano
After confirming Fabrizio Reali as head coach, who led the team to salvation last season, the club had to part ways with one of their core players, goalkeeper Laion, who went to Eboli. New signings are Del Ferraro, the new goalie; Misael from IC Futsal, and Raul Rocha. With a high presence of young, Italian players, the club is an example of talent cultivation.
Another club who secured its place in Serie A despite facing difficulties in the second half of last season. Alfredo Paniccia is the man chosen to direct a team based on a project similar to Lazio’s: to give space to young italian players. Captain Battistoni will lead this new vehicle, with an engine made of ex-LNFS components: Juan Carlos Sánchez ‘Juanqui’, Antoñito, Carlinhos and Anás. Beside them, the group of Italians is ready to be amalgamated. The real soul of the team is represented by the supporters, who last year made an impugnable territory out of the PalaBianchini arena.
The newly-promoted confirmed last year’s coach, Saverio Palusci. Despite the important departure of players like Borsato, Paulinho (now in Arzignano) and Arteiro, the arrivals of veterans Titon and Morgado, along with key players from last year’s promotion (such as Coco Schmitt and Jelavic), are going to be fundamental to face the new challenge on the top tier. The “Tigers” are probably the least favourite in the fight for safety. However, they also weren’t considered as promotion candidates last season. Will the miracle happen again?
Back in Serie after an absence of 8 years, Arzignano are ready to write their own history one more time. The biancorossi veneti are back were their name should be, but they need to get used to certain stages again. Iconic players Marcio Brancher and Fabrizio Amoroso (historical figures in Italian futsal) and the “little prince” Carlo Houenou, one of the most promising young players in the leage, were confirmed at the core of the project. Young coach Cristian Stefani is eager to surprise and make people talk about the Grifo among the giants.
Middle-Earth: Real Rieti, Meta, Feldi Eboli
The mission of reaching the Playoff Finals wasn’t accomplished and coach Massimiliano Bellarte left the club after an impressive journey. President Pietropaoli chose another Massimiliano (Mannino), a former National team player (he wore jersey #10 during the 1996 World Cup in Spain) and alternating success as a manager in Lazio and Latina. Mannino’s skill of managing and giving an identity to his players could be one arrow in Rieti’s quiver. Despite the departure of Vinicius, they can achieve safety with ease. Although, with a roster with the likes of Kakà, Jefferson, Tuli and Chimanguinho, they should aim to something more than that.
There is a lot of enthusiasm around the club managed by Salvo Samperi, another debutant in the league. The team is intriguing: a mix of young players like Di Guida and Azzoni, veterans like Pedro Espindola, Tres, Jacobo Amoedo and Thiago Pérez, and Serie A newcomers like Alejandro Constantino (a key player in UEFA semifanalist Györ) and Ernani. Their arena, PalaCatania, can have an attendance of up to 4000 people. Filling it would be a dream for president Montemurro and his aim to promote Italian futsal around the world. For some, safety is the main target. However, the pre-season was positive. They should not be underestimated, because they have all they need to reach the playoff.
Massimo Ronconi, who led the team to an historic promotion and then safety the next year, has now left the club. His successor, Piero Basile, guided Latina to Playoffs in two occasions and was sacked by Cisternino in the middle of last season. Eboli was one of the most active club during the transfer windows, signing important players to gain quality and experience and raise the ambition bar. This led to a huge change. Among the arrivals, the goalkeeper/sniper Laion, Josiko, Sergio Romano, Bocao and one of the best Argentinian prospects, Kevin Arrieta. Captain Jader Fornari, last season’s top scorer, was confirmed as the key player.
At the foot of Olympus: Pesaro, Dosson, Napoli
Their wonderful season surprised everbody last year. Only Luparense could stop Sylvio Rocha and his guys. This season started with a defeat against Napoli in the Supercup tie-breaker which showed how much worked has yet to be done. However, impressions are still positive. Japa Vieira is the offensive focus, while newcomers like Cristiano Fusari, Igor and Cainan de Matos need time to adapt to Rocha’s demands. The void left by Rangel (last season’s wonder player, now in Kairat) can be filled by handling correctly all the rotations.
The most dangerous team among the “least favourites”, starting from the new manager, mister Fulvio Colini. The signing of the most winning coach, along with many of his turstworthy players: stars like Salas, Caputo, Borruto and Canal (who will be back on the pitch on February), along with Honorio, Taborda and Miarelli from Luparense. In Pesaro, Colini has met Micoli, Marcelinho, Fortini and captain Toninandel. Gegenpressing applied to futsal is back.
David Marín’s troop gave a good impression in the Supercup playoff against Came for the intensity and solidity they showed in all phases of the game, along with offensive effectiveness. Napoli wanted to turn the page and change faces: Patias, Peric, André, Lolo Suazo and especially Espindola left. The players who arrived fit perfectly into the plans of the Spanish manager, who last year got close to winning the second title in a row with Luparense. Among the signings, we can find legends Alemao and Wilhelm and the Azzurri Molitierno, Cesaroni and Baron. New coach, new roster and big expectations: Napoli are ready to shake things up.
The protagonist and the antagonist: Acqua&Sapone and Maritime
The first season on a spectacular stage, with a spectacular team. According to many experts, they are the champions’ main antagonists. Maritime, Sicilian club from the city of Augusta, dominated Serie A2, the second-division league, with a roster full of stars. During the preseason, and after winning almost all the available trophies in the past months, expectations rose. The most important signing was Rodolfo “Robocop” Fortino’s comeback in Italy after 3 years in Sporting CP.Brazilias Leandro Simi and Cabreùva, along with Bissoni and Caio Japa are other significant recruits. They will be managed by Everton Batata, also a new arrival. All of these make for an impressive roster who can fight for new records.
2017-18 was an historical season for the abruzzesi, with their first Scudetto in their history. In addition to that, they also completed a double with the victory in the Coppa Italia final against Luparense. Most of the players from last year were confirmed, except for Bocao and Bordignon. With quality additions like Cuzzolino, Avellino and Ercolessi, the Italian kings want to expand their supremacy to Europe. The fight for the Final Four is going to be hard, starting with the Main Round in Nicosia, Cyprus (APOEL, Mostar and Uddevalla will be their rivals). The risk of losing focus on the league is high, but the team seems stronger and more complete than ever. It’s going to be an all-out battle!
As anticipated, the biggest news of the season is the new agreement bewteen Divisione Calcio a 5 and various communications and broadcasting companies that led to the creation of a brand-new streaming platform. The main source for futsal fans will be PMGSport Futsal, a new Facebook page where all matches are going to be streamed live, on demand and, especially, for free. Here are the fixtures for the first week:
Cover image: divisionecalcioa5.it