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36 | 37 Baby Futbol


From a very young age the children of Buenos Aires have the opportunity to play Baby Futbol . Similar in design to Futsal, but more random and less structured, Baby Futbol is a small sided 5 a-side form of the game played in a tighter area than the Futsal court with a lighter ball. Sidelines and restarts are less important as the Baby Futbol facilities often allow the players to play off the surrounding walls.


Played in restricted spaces with fierce competitiveness, Baby Futbol encourages explosive play, a deftness of touch and quickness of thinking that many believe form the root of football in Argentina and the foundation stone for producing world class footballers.


To understand the scale and popularity of Baby Futbol, you only have to look at the number of participants in the FAFI league, regarded as the strongest Baby Futbol league in Buenos Aires. The FAFI league has seven leagues made up of 160 teams at each age group from U6-U14. Additionally, there are another five official Baby Futbol leagues in Buenos Aires alone - each made up of seven divisions with 20 teams for each age group.


Between these ages Baby Futbol is not the only form of football young South American players take part in but instead it forms part of a varied games and training programme. Interestingly, young players who sign with professional clubs continue to play and train solely for Baby Futbol with an official Baby Futbol affiliated Club in addition to their practice and games schedule with eleven a side football.


Young players under 14 affiliated to River, Independiente and San Lorenzo are involved in either Baby Futbol or 11v11 every day with no rest days


Case study: The Parque Chas Saviola Baby Futbol Centre


Founded in 1929, Parque Chas is officially linked to three professional clubs - River Plate, Independiente and San Lorenzo. Until the age of 14, young players who sign for the youth academy of any of these professional clubs continue to train twice a week at Baby Futbol at Parque Chas and play for Parque Chas in a Baby Futsal league each Saturday.


Additionally, academy players train three times a week with their professional club and play 11 a-side football for their academy on Sundays. Young players under the age of 14 affiliated to River Plate, Independiente and San Lorenzo are involved in either Baby Futbol or the 11v11 format of the game every day with no rest days.


Although the exact figures are unsure, Gabriel Rodriguez, head coach at The Parque Chas Saviola Baby Futbol Centre, believes over 150 professional players have been developed at the facility. Of those, approximately 70 have gone on to represent Argentina at U17 and U20 level. Pargue Chas graduates include Lavezzi, Saviola, Lamella, Hernan Crespo and Pablo Zabaletta.


Joe Sargison has conducted coaching visits to Italy, Spain, Holland, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil as part of his individual continued professional development.


Approximately 840 U11 teams play Baby Futbol in Buenos Aires every Saturday. With each squad made up of 12 players it is estimated that there are 10,080 U11 Baby Futbol players in the city and surrounding districts alone. Notably, these figures only account for organised and official Baby Futbol teams and do not take into account the many informal versions of the game played in the shanty towns.


As well as its huge popularity in Argentina and Uruguay, Baby Futbol is also enjoying rapid growth in Chile and Columbia. In all of these countries there is a cultural acceptance that Baby Futbol is a key part of a young player’s development between the ages of 5 to 13.


Additionally, Joe has delivered


Coach Education Programmes in Italy, Argentina, Norway, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Uganda, Botswana as well as in England.


Through The Balls To Poverty Programme, Joe has ten years of coaching and coach education experience in communities of extreme deprivation and poverty in South Africa, Uganda, Botswana, Kenya, Brazil.


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