ANFA (Akash Nathani Futsal Academy) was started in 2009 by experienced footballer and futsal enthusiast Akash Nathani as a humble weekly get-together for people passionate about the sport. Since then, it has become one of North Jakarta’s most effective youth futsal training programs, and they’ve recently begun expanding into South Jakarta as well! We decided we had to take a look ANFA and try to pin down just what it is that allows it to remain so consistently at the top-of-the-pack among positive youth-sport experiences.
It might seem obvious, but the first thing that we find really impressive about ANFA is its cadre of knowledgeable, passionate, and experienced coaches. Almost all of the coaches have extensive professional football and/or futsal experience, which injects their training program with the hard-won philosophies they’ve developed over years of real-world experience.
In addition to being experienced players, they are also talented and certified in the often deceptively difficult art of coaching. Head coach and owner Akash Nathani is a good example of the talent in both these areas; he has played professional football extensively across Southeast Asia and Europe, and recently acquired a “Futsal Level 2 AFC FIFA coaching badge,” which is the highest qualification in Indonesia at the moment. Many young talents who are playing competitively in National Leagues today owe a large part of their success to this unique team of teachers.
The second impressive thing about ANFA is their effective training techniques. They don’t waste a minute of practice time! Some of the areas they focus on are agility, tactical thinking, and technical skills. In addition to improving players’ futsal game, these skills all carry directly over to standard football. In fact, we were surprised to learn that many world-class footballers, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, cite futsal as a key factor in shaping and growing their football abilities!
“Football players, the greatest ones in the world, all start with futsal,” says Akash. “People in Brazil -Ronaldo, Kaka, all these big names- are all futsal players. It’s mandatory in Brazil to play futsal until the age of 10 or 11, and then you get on the football pitch. So everyone has such good technical skills- it’s because they play futsal. It’s very quick: because the space is so limited, you need to take the positions very quickly. So, by the time you play football, you’re playing in a big space; it’s very easy.
That’s why they call the Brazilian boys the Samba Boys because they dance with the ball because they’re so technically gifted. This is what futsal does for you. And we do have affiliations with national clubs, national coaches. At the end of the day, we can guide our players to turn pro if that’s what they choose in life, “ he added.
ANFA’s program is divided into four main age groups: U-4, U-6, U-12, and U-16. Each group receives special training suited to their age-level. There are also the Extra-Curricular “Lollipop” and “Kiddie-Planet” groups, which are super cute to watch! You can see some great videos of these groups on ANFA’s Instagram: “anfafutsalacademy”.
ANFA also takes part in competitions and leagues with other futsal centers throughout the Jakarta area. This makes the training meaningful and gives the players exciting experiences to look forward to. It’s also where the ANFA program really shows its effectiveness: their U-16 group was recently ranked in the top 8 in all of Indonesia, qualifying for Nationals after finishing in the top 2 in the Jakarta region.
The success is not limited to the U-16s. At a recent futsal festival in Jakarta for Under-10s, ANFA sent two teams, and they came home with eight awards! Both teams finished in the top-three in all four award categories, out of around ten teams. Because of this success, Akash says that next year they plan to take those Under-10 boys who won the competition to play in the Under-13 Indonesian league. He knows it will be very challenging for them, but, he believes, “It’s the only way to grow- when you have resistance.”
The final important trait we discovered with ANFA is how the program focuses not only on improving players’ abilities on the court but also on their character and life-skills off the court. They’ve found again and again that the abilities developed through futsal practice carry over to help the student perform better both in school and social life.
One example that Akash mentions is how many of the players that come to his sessions start out being very shy. After participating in the program over time, however, their self-confidence increases. After a few years, “They’re in school with an entourage,” says Akash. The strong sense of teamwork and sportsmanship that they cultivate on the court is useful for them off the court as well. On top of this, important skills like public speaking become easy for them. They also know how to make quick decisions and that they will have to face the consequences of their mistakes, which “Happens all the time in futsal, especially when you first start playing.”
Akash summarizes, saying that, “Futsal teaches teamwork, teambuilding, honesty, and how to respect others. It also gives you the discipline, hard work, and perseverance that are required in order to be successful in today’s world. It injects those real values to the kids so that they can progress. Not just in football, but in life.”