A popular sport that is still relatively unknown in Saskatchewan has been gaining momentum in the province thanks to a Saskatoon team getting some national attention.
Futsal is played in a gym with a ball, and combines elements of soccer, basketball, lacrosse and hockey.
Last month, the Saskatoon Futsal League men's team won the first Saskatchewan provincial tournament, earning the players a spot at the nationals in Ottawa from April 21 to 23.
League director Jerson Barandica-Hamilton hopes the national game will help bring more attention to the sport in Saskatchewan.
He said it was a high-energy sport with a fast pace that is best compared to tennis.
Think quick, play quick
"It's very, very fast-paced, very entertaining and it really forces you to have to think quick and play quick," he said.
"Which is, I think, a big appeal as a fan and as a player."
Barandica-Hamilton said futsal is played five-on-five, with four outfield players plus a keeper. Each team has 14 players and substitutions happen on the fly.
There are no boards and the game is played in a small gym, with dimensions of about 40 metres by 20 metres.
Barandica-Hamilton, who grew up playing futsal in Mexico, said the sport is a solid foundation for young people to excel in other team sports.
"It forces you to have to be very technical, think ahead, and be very comfortable with the ball in a tight area," he said.
"And then when you translate it into the outfield game … you have tons of room to make those decisions that the game becomes very easy, very slower for you, to be successful."
Nationals up next
If the team wins at their first national championship, they could qualify for an international tournament to be held in Costa Rica or Guatemala.
This year's national championship is the third of its kind, and Barandica-Hamilton said only Ontario and Quebec had competed in previous years.
"This year being Saskatchewan attending is a big factor in growing the game across the country and especially growing the game here in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan," he said.