Dancing with constraints

Football may have been invented in England, but it is Brazil that it was perfected into flowing poetry.

Brazilians play a brand of football with dazzling dribbles, one-touch passes and impeccable coordination. It makes their football a pleasure to watch, regardless of the result. ‘Joga Bonito’ is their slogan, which translates to ‘play beautifully’.

For a nation that produces some of the world’s best footballers and continues to dominate a sport that is wildly popular in richer countries, kids in Brazil don’t play football while growing up. Instead, they play a much more constrained game called futsal.

Futsal is played in a basketball sized court, with 5 players on each side. It uses a smaller and heavier ball than a standard football. It is played by passing the ball along the ground as opposed to lofting it in the air. In several ways, it is more crowded and constrained than the traditional 11-a-side variant. However, it is these constraints that help Brazilians with their dribbling, coordination and one-touch passing in tight spaces. Almost every Brazilian football star – Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Romario and Neymar – grew up playing loads of futsal.

Futsal’s constraints turns football into poetry. Literary constraints turn prose into poetry. Even as constraints limit what you can do, they can serve as vessels for limitless beauty.

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