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Modesto’s new Futsal league is a first for the region

In its first year, the new league has nearly 170 players. The league hopes the positive momentum can help double their size in the coming years.

MODESTO, Calif. — A sports sensation in the Bay Area is spilling over to the Modesto area for the first time.

Futsal is an indoor variant of soccer. The catch is that the sport is scaled down and played on a basketball-sized court with smaller low-bounce ball. The ball is on the ground more often and keeps the players moving. Unlike indoor soccer, there’s no walls, and that means players have to rely more on creativity to solve problems.

The first official year of Modesto Futsal is in full swing at Grace Lutheran Church. Since its formation, Darrel Wilkins, a former Modesto soccer coach, has recruited about 170 players to the inaugural league.

“People can see the speed of play, the ball always being on the ground, having to play in a very limited space or area to make quick decisions, (and) how that was a huge source of development that their kids weren’t getting,” Wilkins said.

Despite being popular overseas in Europe and in the Bay Area, Wilkins said the new Modesto league is a first for the area, adding that you can’t find the game in areas like Stockton, Ceres, Manteca, or Lathrop.

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When it came time to introduce the concept of Futsal, Wilkins said it left a lot of people scratching their heads. It took some exposure to games in San Ramon and Santa Clara before people realized this was something they were missing in their area.

“We don’t have one, never had one, and the closest one was 60 miles away when I started,” Wilkins said.

The Modesto league has been drawing in players from neighboring areas like Patterson, Turlock, and Stockton. 

During the winter, teams have been playing at Grace Lutheran Church, and, during the summer, the league is planning to bring in a recreational program where they’ll have some games at the Graceada Park tennis courts.

The new paint at the tennis courts were actually done in anticipation of the future gameplay. About two years ago, Wilkins started pushing to get those courts painted ahead of the program. The courts at Graceada were underutilized and some saw Futsal as a way to inject some positive momentum for the park.

“I thought that his plan really intersected well with our city plan to try to get more people using our parks as part of larger strategy to help drive away unwanted behavior,” Councilman Tony Madrigal said. 

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The sport brings positive activity to the parks, the crowds keep unwanted behavior away, and the sport give kids something to do and keeps them out of trouble.

“You keep the kids busy playing Futsal, (then) they’re not out on the streets,” Madrigal said. “My hope is that this futsal league in one of our city parks, maybe it can be replicated in other city parks.”

At nearly 170 players, Modesto Futsal is off to a strong start, but there's still a lot of ambition behind the project and support from the local soccer clubs.

Wilkins is hoping the momentum of the inaugural year can carry the league into doubling the number of teams, bringing in competition from out of town, and possibly lead toward some tournament play.

“The point of the game is to have fun,” Wilkins said. “If kids are coming back to play, that’s how you know they’re having fun.”

For more information on Modesto Futsal, click HERE

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