10 cities to visit in 2018 and take in some elite futsal (part 1, 1-6)
By Damon Shaw | December 28, 2017
I’ve travelled a lot through my involvement in futsal and I’m ending 2017 with a trip to Prague. I’ve also got my eyes on a few other mini trips next year and there are so many good places to visit that you can tie in with a futsal match! When I went to Tokyo last Summer, I was there for the opening round of fixtures of the F-League and I tried, but failed due to the amount of things we wanted to see, to take in a session in Thailand while on holiday, though I did have a couple of things lined up…
Here are my top 10 recommendations for futsal holidays in 2018 and some ways to do it on a budget.
1. Prague, Czechia
An easy one to start with, with flights from £40 return from most airports in the UK and Sparta Prague playing mostly on a Friday (check fixtures here) you can enjoy a weekend in Prague after taking in a Czech league match. They play at the Arena Sparta (pictured) which you can find here.
Prague is cheap and a quick look online and you can find a room for £12 a night (AirBnB). Travel is easy with the tram system and beer is famously on the cheap side! Prague is one of those cities on everyone’s list and now you can go and take in some futsal as well, with Sparta being a pro side with some famous names: Marcelo (formerly of Baku United and Brazil) and Wilde (just left for Corinthians in Brazil) are in the squad this season.
The best time to go is before March when the regular season finishes. 9th March is Sparta’s last home match but then they enter the playoffs between the top 8 teams with dates to be confirmed.
I’m going there for 3 days this December and you can follow me on instagram where I’ll be sharing photos via my story. I’m going to see the derby between, Sparta and Slavia, with my friend Nenad who is manager of the latter.
For more information about Czech futsal, check out: http://efutsal.cz/
2. Ljubljana, Slovenia
A no-brainer for any futsal fan. The UEFA EURO 2018 kicks off on 30th January and runs until 10th February in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. Flights are best priced on Wizzair and from London, with other areas requiring connections. You can also fly to Klagenfurt in Austria or Trieste, Italy and still get to the capital fairly easily.
All the information about the schedule and tickets can be found on UEFA.com.
Each EURO grows in stature and this one promises to be the best yet. You’ll see Ricardinho in action and no doubt some of the top rising talents in Europe. France have qualified for the first time and it’s only a matter of time before England are there, but for now, we’ll just be going as fans of futsal! You’ll no doubt bump into other people you know through the huge futsal communities on social media and Slovenia is a beautiful place. I’ve been twice before for futsal tournaments as a volunteer and will be trying to get to the EURO at least for a couple of days.
If you check out AirBnb, you can get a great deal for the duration of the tournament as hotels in the capital aren’t the cheapest, especially with the event on!
Check out the highlights of the last edition and start making plans to get out there!
3. Zaragoza, Spain
Another huge event in the futsal calendar and this time for the top four clubs in Europe this season. Hosted in between Barcelona and Madrid, with both Inter Movistar and FC Barcelona Lassa qualifying, they will be joined by Sporting CP and Gyor ETO of Hungary.
Flights start from £70, but there are often deals for less and rooms can be found for as little as €10 per night! Not much flexibility on dates though, with the tournament taking place from 19th – 22nd April!
Zaragoza may not be your number one holiday destination, but it’s good for a spring holiday to get some sun and see some sights. You will be able to visit the amazing Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar and drink a cafe con leche in the many street cafes in the rest day between the semis and final.
The venue is the fantastic Pabellón Príncipe Felipe arena that holds over 10,000 people. The finals, with the culture of futsal embedded in all Spaniards, will no doubt be a sell out and a fantastic atmosphere if the one in Lleida 2012 is anything to go by, with the famous “Dracs” supporting the catalans.
Again for information about the matches and event, visit www.uefa.com/futsalcup/.
4. Madrid, Spain
The second of three Spanish entries in this list, Madrid is set to host the annual Copa de España – the “league cup” for the top eight teams in the LNFS at the half-way stage. I was at the 2013 edition with my under-14 team, Catgas Santa Coloma and it was an amazing experience. We played the Minicopa and reached the final only to lose to our nemesis FC Barcelona Lassa. Being around the event was such a good experience. The staging of it, the TV production, the festival around it, all made it one of my best weekend’s in futsal. And reaching a final that was live on TV, via a last second screamer, just made it even better.
Madrid is easy to get to, with lots of flights daily and like the rest of Spain, AirBnb is popular and cheap. The food and lifestyle there is great too so you can take in three or four days of sightseeing with four days of elite futsal. The top eight in Spain would compete with most teams in the World, so you are in for a treat!
I’m hoping to tick Madrid off my bucket list as I never quite made it to the capital when I lived there.
The Copa de Espana, an event ran by the LNFS will go from Thursday 15th until Sunday 18th March. There are usually coaching workshops going on and of course exhibition matches and a festival atmosphere.
5. Bangkok, Thailand
A bit far, but if you are hoping to head to Thailand for a getaway at some point in the next 12 months, then make sure you tie it in with a visit to one of the Thai Futsal League matches.
The season has now finished, but it normally runs from April through to December so you have a lot of flexibility as to when would be a good time to go. They also host a lot of international tournaments such as the AFC Futsal Championship and of course in 2012 they held the FIFA Futsal World Cup!
Going to Thailand may require a bit more planning and speaking to a local who knows the futsal scene, but there are plenty of people willing to help and you can interact with the facebook page of Thai Futsal and they will help you plan your matches! https://www.facebook.com/ThaiFutsal/.
Flights are £450-500 so not cheap, but well worth it if you are thinking of an Asian trip! The food and sights are worth it alone, even if you don’t make it to a futsal match like I didn’t – it was still my best holiday ever!
6. Barcelona, Spain
Always an option for a weekend away, cheap, amazing city (I lived there for three years and had visited several times before) and easy and cheap to get to from most places. With two professional teams in the city, almost every week there is a futsal match attended by 2,000+ people.
I’ve flown there from £19 in the past and a quick scan of the internet is showing flights from £50 from my local airport (Liverpool) and accommodation starts from £10 a night.
The best time to go would be during the playoff season, from May onwards. That way you may take in two or even three matches in the space of a week dependent on fixtures and results and if you get a semi final, you will see a bumper crowd and a very meaningful match. However, any time between September and May is fine and it’s always sunny there.
Barcelona usually play from Thursday to Sunday, with games being confirmed around 10 days in advance so it could be tricky if you only have a couple of days spare and want to book the cheap flights early. Catgas almost always play on a Friday.
http://www.lnfs.es/ is the official LNFS website and has all the fixture information so you can plan ahead!
An extra plus for Barcelona is the amount of junior and local futsal going on, often at the same arena. You could quite easily go to see Catgas and take in 3 or 4 matches before or after. The Catalan Federation website has the full fixture programme or you can use Futbee to track all the junior leagues and fixtures. Click here to see the Under-19s national league and you can no doubt take in a very high level game from this league on any given weekend: Futbee.
In part two, we’ll have a look at a couple more long haul options and some top cities to tick off your bucket list!
Comment below if you’ve been abroad to any of these places or if you’d recommend any other futsal cities!