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Elrica Tanu
Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sports

Never too late to have a ball

The Straits Times | Elrica Tanu | Sunday, May 18, 2014

At Kovan Sports Centre, one can opt to play football in ankle-deep water in an inflatable pool.

When the sun goes down on Fridays, Mr Imran Ayub swops his office wear for football gear and tears around a pitch like he is 18 again.

The 33-year-old field service manager at an oil and gas company is among a growing number of indoor football warriors - working adults, mostly men, who unwind after work with a game of football played on a sheltered pitch.

Unlike football, which is played on an outdoor field measuring about 100m by 64m, the indoor version commonly played here takes place on a far smaller court that measures about 25m by 16m.

It is known as five-a-side football as each team has five players instead of 11. It is also sometimes called futsal, but that is officially played on a hard-court surface.

Most pitch operators here carpet their grounds with synthetic turf to reduce the risk of injury. The pitches are usually enclosed to prevent the ball from leaving the court - another difference between indoor football and futsal, which is delimited only by lines.

The Cage, near Stadium Walk, was the first to introduce an indoor pitch here in 2005. There are now at least eight operators. Some courts can be found at unconventional locations, such as under a flyover. The pitches at The Cage are walled up, while others use nets to enclose the courts.

The rise in the number of indoor football pitches has drawn droves of football enthusiasts such as Mr Ayub. He says: "It's more convenient to make plans to play the game when you know that the location is weather-resistant."

It costs $90 to $120 to play an hour- long game during peak hours, which most operators define as after 6pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.

As fewer people are needed to play, it is also easier to cobble together two teams for a game, says Mr Ayub.

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