New era dawns for futsal’s Copa de España

By Rosa Barrancos, Spanish futsal expert

The moment is nearly upon us! On Thursday 5th March the 31st edition of the Copa de España de Fútbol Sala will kick off in Málaga, with Spanish futsal’s blue-riband cup competition running through to Sunday 8th at the Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena – the home of basketball side Unicaja.

This is a time of year when futsal fans always the same burning question: “What will be new at this edition of the Copa?” The query is ever more pertinent this time around given that, after being organised for the last 30 years by the LNFS (National Futsal League), the Málaga showpiece will be the first to be overseen by the RFEF (Spanish Football Association).

Changing of the guard

There’s no getting around the fact that first impressions matter, which is one of the reasons why the RFEF has been keen to stamp its own style on the Copa from the beginning. So, while the trophy to be lifted by the champions remains the same coveted piece of silverware raised on 30 previous occasions in futsal arenas countrywide, it has undergone one significant change: it will no longer bear the initials of the LNFS.

Paco Sedano (left) & Pedro Rocha (centre) with the Copa de España. Photo:©RFEF

The Martín Carpena is also set to witness two further changes, with the court itself to now bear “the colours of the RFEF”, thus drawing down the curtain on the iconic blue LNFS courts which have played host to so many moments of futsal genius. Also gaining a new look is the key tool of the trade – the ball – with makers Joma opting for a white design with gold detailing, which will also feature the crests of the eight teams taking part in this edition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCeEkQB1EwQ

New match-ups between familiar foes

Turning to the draw itself, the fates have thrown up two of the same quarter-final showdowns as the 2019 Copa in Valencia. Then as now it was Movistar Inter and Palma Futsal who kicked off the competition, with last year’s encounter ending in a hard-fought 3-2 success for Ricardinho and Co.

ElPozo Murcia and Levante UD also have fresh memories of meeting in a Copa quarter-final, having gone head-to-head last year in a match ElPozo won 4-0 to book their spot in the semis. In the remaining quarter-final ties, reigning champions Barcelona will take on Osasuna Magna and Jaén Paraíso Interior tackle Viña Albali Valdepeñas.

Quarter-final draw | Photo © of the RFEF

Yet another change comes in the shape of the scheduling, with the quarter-final matches kicking off two hours earlier than at previous editions – a decision that has, by and large, proved less than popular with futsal fans. The four matches in quarters, played over Thursday and Friday, will kick off at 17.00 and 19.00, when many locals will still be at work, preventing large numbers of fans from joining the futsal festivities until the weekend’s games. Fortunately for those unable to catch the action at the venue, all the games will be broadcast live via Gol TV. 

  • Quarter-finals | Thursday 5 March

Movistar Inter vs. Palma Futsal 17:00

Jaén Paraíso Interior vs. Viña Albali Valdepeñas 19:00

  • Quarter-finals | Friday 6 March

Levante UD FS vs. ElPozo Murcia Costa Cálida 17:00

Barcelona vs. CA Osasuna Magna 19:00

  • Semi-finals | Saturday 7 March

Inter or Palma vs. Jaén or Valdepeñas 17:00

Levante or ElPozo vs. Barça or Osasuna 19:00

  • Final | Sunday 8 March

Winner semi-final one vs Winner semi-final two 18:30

From VAR to VIR at the Copa de España

Making its bow in the competition will be the Video Instant Replay (VIR) system which, according to Pedro Galán, President of the RFEF’s Futsal Referees’ Commission, will “in a similar way to basketball, give the referee the opportunity to instantly review a passage of play whenever they deem it necessary. What is more, a new feature for this year is that coaches will be able to make one request per match to review a given passage of play.” 

VIR will be brought into use in five circumstances: goal/no goal situations; straight red cards; checking whether or not the clock has run out at the end of a match/period; cases of mistaken identity for yellow cards; and finally to check if penalty incidents took place inside or outside the area (but not whether or not it was a foul).

FIFA is believed to following developments, with a successful implementation at the Copa in Málaga potentially leading to VIR’s use at this autumn’s Futsal World Cup in Lithuania. 

Ricardinho’s last dance in the Copa

Now into his seventh and final season at Movistar Inter, next term Ricardinho will be showcasing his skills on French courts in the colours of ACCS FS Paris. A three-time winner of the Copa de España with Inter (in 2014, 2016 & 2017), “O Mágico” has graced the competition with decisive goals, pivotal assists and countless moments of inspirational skill.   

With Inter not reaching the final four of the Copa del Rey, the Copa de España could provide Ricardinho with the perfect setting to light up the Spanish futsal scene for the final time (the end-of-season Liga title play-offs notwithstanding). What better incentive for futsal followers to flock to Málaga than to savour the magic of the departing Portuguese?

Ricardinho and Inter captain Carlos Ortiz at the 2019 Copa de España | Photo © Movistar Inter

Málaga prepares for futsal takeover

The Copa de España has always been magical, a competition with a special flavour. Over four days “futsaleros” from across Spain, regardless of whether their teams are involved, flock in numbers to the chosen host city determined to enjoy a futsal fiesta – both inside the arena and out. Four days where the harmony and brotherhood between the fans of different futsal teams becomes perfectly clear, with groups often spending the mornings exploring the city together, sharing a meal and a drink pre-game and partying the night away after the on-the-court action is over. 

So, what can the locals expect next week? To see the streets around the Martín Carpena fill with futsal fans bearing flags, singing, banging drums and, above all, enjoying themselves. But don’t be alarmed “Malagueños”, futsal fans come in peace!

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