'I'm a big advocate': Joe Cole in Wembley to promote futsal

Louise Gear and Joe Cole represented the FA - which partnered Pokémon to help the event appeal to youngsters. 

Louise Gear and Joe Cole represented the FA - which partnered Pokémon to help the event appeal to youngsters. - Credit: Daniel Lewis

Former England footballer Joe Cole was back in Wembley last week to meet young players at the launch of the 2021/22 Pokémon Youth Futsal Cup. 

The ex-West Ham and Chelsea midfielder was appearing on behalf of the FA at The Crest Academy school. He was joined by futsal players from HFR Haringey Girls (U14), Belmont Bees (U12), and Brook House FC (U12) - as well as Pokémon favourite Pikachu. 

Hands up who wants Pikachu to play as goal keeper?

Hands up who wants Pikachu to play as goal keeper? - Credit: DANIEL LEWIS

Cole awarded prizes to players based on last season’s performances ahead of the new season which kicks off on November 21. 

The FA's (Football Association's) Youth Futsal Programme partnered with Pokémon aiming to recruit girls and boys aged under 10 and under 16 into the game, which is an indoor version of football played indoors with five-a-side teams and a harder ball.  

Cole, who has recently turned 40 and retired from football in 2018, said: “I’m a big advocate for futsal. 

Joe Cole was selected for three England World Cup squads. 

Joe Cole was selected for three England World Cup squads. - Credit: Daniel Lewis

“I played growing up, it wasn’t a thing in England at the time, but we had indoor football, small-sided, same sized goals, it wasn’t organized, so it wasn’t the exact same rules.” 

“[Now] I play futsal and my kids play,” he added. “My daughter plays futsal, she’s very good, she plays everything, she’s into dance, running, at the moment she’s back to football, she plays for a local team. She’s a keen athlete”

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Louise Gear, the FA’s Head of Development, and former high-level netball player said: “The Pokémon Youth Cup is all about having fun. 

“The beauty of futsal is that it’s a really fabulous tool to develop football skills.”

Futsal can be more inclusive for girls and is linked to Gear’s second hat as Head of Women Football Participation. According to her, in secondary school, only 50 per cent of schools are offering football to girls. 

“We want to make sure that the girls have the same opportunities to play football in schools and clubs as boys,” said Louise. To that end, a plan for 2024 has been launched by the FA. 

Joe Cole grew up in Paddington in London

Joe Cole grew up in Paddington in London - Credit: DANIEL LEWIS

When asked if the skills required were different from football, Cole replied: “It’s the same fundamental basic skills, but at a faster pace, quicker decision making, more intensity, if you do it, and you do it right, you have ball mastery.”

Gear pointed out: “They’re constantly engaged, constantly attacking, defending. They have a limited amount of space compared to the nine-A-side game, or 11-A-side game, which means that they have to be really creative with their play.”

Cole added: “We don’t always have the weather in this country, so something that can be done inside is so fun. It should be part of the curriculum.”

Cole then acted as an early Father Christmas, congratulating winners Brook House FC from Hayes, and distributing Pokémon kits and prizes. 

Melissa Amaara, Lavell Wellington-Marcano and Syum Shah received individual prizes. 

“School's back tomorrow,” Joe quipped with a smile, drawing complaints from the kids, before a photo shoot and an autograph session. 

Around 1,700 teams across the country have expressed their interest to take part in this season’s futsal cup, with local heats starting in November and culminating in a national final next June. 

Pokémon Youth Futsal will be offered to schools around the country as one of the school games options, as Pokémon and the FA continue to create standout initiatives for children.

In the New Year, England manager Gareth Southgate will be visiting a school with Pokémon to help spread the word about using Futsal as a Games option in schools.

“It’s a global game, it’s a big business. But fundamentally, it’s a local game, the power of football is to unite communities and it will always be that,” said Joe Cole.
Joe Cole is working with The FA and Pokémon to launch the Pokémon Youth Futsal Cup. To learn more about this season’s competition and Pokémon Futsal head to http://mastertheball.com