(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) This one had all the markers of a Messi classic.
A withering deep run, slalom-stepping past a tumbling Bosnian defender, then another, a deft give-and-go, topped by 'that' left foot.
The Flea's otherworldly speed and agility may be inborn, but that close-quarters wizardry has 'street' written all over it.
Ironic, given the Argentinian first honed his ball skills indoors at futsal (or 'hall football'), a ''close cousin'' of football but popular sport in its own right. Especially in Brazil, the five-a-side game's ''co-creators'', where children get their first starts out on the futsal court.
''In Brazil, most schools can't afford a proper football pitch, only a small court. So, most five and six year olds start off playing futsal,'' said Paulo Koscina, who manages Samba Futsal Centre in Bausher, Oman's first futsal training centre.
''If football is the most popular sport in Brazil, futsal is the most practised.'' A galaxy of national heroes Pele, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho among them have sworn by the sport, which counts current stars like Neymar Jr and Oscar as past exponents.
Across the futsal pitches of the Bausher Olympic Centre, though, it's Messi jerseys that billow during the evening coaching session. Since it began teaching children, from as young as five and up to 17 years, last September, the centre has seen its numbers swell. ''Around 80 children have joined in the last three months alone.''
Though the programme usually runs for ten weeks, both demand and the heat has called for flexible scheduling. Two months of lessons had to be condensed into a special one-month pre-Ramadan course.
Koscina concedes the Brazilian tag, the star lustre (Ronaldo and Ronaldinho feature on the centre's flyer), and perhaps the infectious Samba atmosphere around the World Cup account for some of the appeal. But he said, ''Standard football training is too robotic. Move left, move right. How about moving left and making your opponent go right?
''In Brazil, we develop a touch of the ball. We dare to do things differently. Joga Bonito (play beautifully).'' At this session, the emphasis is on movements and evading marking using the ginga (the Brazilian swing).
The language and objectives of futsal and football being much the same and with skills like possession and ball control being translatable to either, it's easy to forget and many do that the sports are very different in some very fundamental ways: The smaller pitch and goal, a smaller, heavier ball, the five player-limit, no offsides and unlimited substitutions, for example.
''It's good to develop some specific skills for football since you need to move all the time and won't go many minutes without touching the ball (as you might in football), but in terms of tactics and rotations, the way to play is more similar to basketball and handball.''
The distinction is sometimes lost on people. It is a game built around kicking a ball into a net, after all. And there's plenty of that goals aren't as dear in futsal. Which, Koscina said, fits in perfectly with the kick and shoot mindset here.
''They love football in Oman, but it's just look at the goal and shoot. No preparation or set-up. People just run with the ball. I saw a game that had 20 players on each side each one wearing a different shirt. No lines, no boundaries. It's too random.
''If you don't play to the rules, you don't develop your skills. In Brazil, even as children, we would learn the tactics and rotations because we play so much and played as part of a team.'' That might just have gotten more challenging with his young charges understandably more interested in reliving their hero's World Cup exploits.
''It's not like you'll become Ronaldinho just byplaying futsal or copying something they saw on TV, I tell them. That takes dedication.''
Koscina and his coaches tell them. It's an attractive philosophy especially to children looking to scratch that World Cup itch. As late as last Sunday, with less than a month to go before classes break for Ramadan, children were signing up for instruction. Dhiya Said's son Hashim was one.
''My son wanted to join a football team with the World Cup on his mind. I had taken him to another school but he would come out agitated and unhappy. Maybe they were more regimental there,'' he said.
''It's early days here, but he seems happy and more engaged. That's the goal.''
As a little boy in Argentina, I played futsal on the streets and for my club. It was tremendous fun, and it really helped me become who I am today.
During my childhood in Portugal, all we played was futsal. The small playing area helped me improve my close control, and whenever I played futsal I felt free. If it wasn't for futsal, I wouldn't be the player I am today.
In futsal, you see whether a player is really talented. In normal football you don't necessarily identify talent as easily because it's so much more physical. But with futsal, you notice the small details in quality, class and tactical understanding.
A lot of the moves I make originate from futsal. It's played in a very small space, and the ball control is different in futsal. And to this day my ball control is pretty similar to a futsal player's control.
Futsal was important in helping to develop my ball control, quick thinking, passing, dribbling, balance and concentration. You need to think quick and play quick so it's easier for you when you move to normal football (11-a-side football).
Futsal will always be my first love. I needed extremely good feet, because you're always attempting to beat opponents in the minimum of space. I loved the challenge of playing on