Scapin: from Spurs heartbreak to sign for futsal SuperLeague stars London United
St. Mary’s Sports Coaching Science student, Matheus Scapin, will sign for one of England’s premier futsal clubs this summer, London United, just three years after injury forced the Brazilian to hang up his boots in favour of a football code more reliant on soul.
After impressing in three trials, the Super League South club secured Mat ahead of the FA National Futsal League start in September, with the 20-year-old already being tipped for first team selection.
But unlike the numerous nutmegs Mat has humiliated opponents with this season, the youngster’s path hasn’t always been so free of obstacles. Only after a hip injury that left Mat side-lined for 20 months did futsal beckon.
He said: ‘‘I started to play futsal three years ago. I’d never played futsal in my life before then, even though I’m from Brazil, because I grew up in Greece. So I’ve played football all my life, since I was five.’’
As a 14-year-old, Mat signed a semi-professional contract with his local club in Greece, Messiniakos FC, before moving to England in 2011 and joining Tottenham Hotspur’s academy.
By the age of 15 the Brazilian was regularly involved with the Under 18’s squad, playing alongside the likes of Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Andros Townsend, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll.
However, a problem with the tendons connecting his right hip to his quadriceps caused the youngster to spend nine months out. The worst was still yet to come. Just two months into regaining full fitness, Mat faced a further 11 month spell on the side-lines after reinjuring the same troublesome hip.
It was at this point that futsal – with its more delicate vigour – provided Mat the chance to kick on. He was invited to the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation Education and Futsal Development Centre which partnered with Haringey Sixth Form, enabling the youngster to study while mastering a new craft.
He said: ‘‘Futsal was a game that I didn’t know I would love that much. But it’s my style of play, it’s how I want to play, quick feet, quick thinking, skills – it’s a smart game, and I like to have to think about different strategies.’’
By strategy, futsal bodes more resemblance to basketball than football such is its more compacted punchy nature, though the Brazilian’s football work ethic was instantly transferable.
He said: ‘‘The mentality helped a lot. The three words that I learned from five years old; discipline, hard-work and dedication, was something I could apply everywhere. Everything I learned – the basics from football – you could adapt to futsal.’’
Futsal is now the 20-year-old’s preferred code for one simple but much overlooked reason.
He said: ‘‘If you play football and you have a bad day, you might only have 10 or 11 touches during the match but in futsal if you have a bad day and play the whole match you probably have 200 touches.
‘‘It’s something that gives you the opportunity to improve during the game, so I love futsal because it gives you the opportunity to try something new every time. That’s my reason for playing, that’s the enjoyment.’’
Mat’s refreshing outlook encapsulates the romantic stereotype of everything Brazilian football represents. Boundless inventive freedom.
Although Dele Alli’s emergence alongside established creative talents, Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana, bucks England’s restrictive workman-like label, it is still evident that South American football culture employs alien methods at youth level.
Mat said: ‘‘In Brazil, Spain, Italy these countries, until you are 14 you don’t play 11-a-side, you just play futsal, so that’s how you develop your technique, coordination, balance. Then when you are 15 they prepare you for 11-a-side for two or three years to be ready for a professional team.
‘‘Even in the Premier League you’ll see Willian, Oscar, Coutinho, Firmino – they all apply the futsal techniques into football and it helps them in one-on-ones and two-on-ones, when decision making is critical.
‘‘Futsal helps spatial awareness as well because futsal is played on such a small court that you have to know where to go and where to move, and imagine if you know how to play on a small court, going to a big pitch makes it very easy to play.’’
Mat – who finished as St. Mary’s futsal team’s top-scorer this season – now has his sights set on challenging for the Super League South title with London United, and targets representing the Brazilian national team in a number of years. And with his track record, the 20-year-old has already proved you can achieve a lot in just three.