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Rams FC books passage to Miami with Neymar 5 win

By - Apr 30, 2017

By Jacob Lev/For The Sporting Nation

Neymar Jr’s Five futsal tournament made its way through Phoenix on April 29th. There were 65 teams signed up with over 240 players entered in the tournament.

Neymar Jr. is widely considered one of the best soccer players in the world. He plays for FC Barcelona alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, to mention a few players on their talented roster. When not on the pitch for Barcelona or Brazil's national team, he is the big name behind a tournament held throughout the world including in the United States, stopping in cities like Miami, Houston, San Diego, Chicago, and Phoenix.

Last year proved to be a success, and now in its second year, it looks to grow even more.

  1. What is Neymar Jr's Five?

The tournament, “Neymar Jr’s Five,” is a five-on-five games, where the players range from ages 18-25 with two players being allowed to be older than 25. Players can also be male or female. In futsal, the rules differ from soccer in a multitude of ways. It may seem the same at first but it's a smaller field, fewer players, and only lasts 10 minutes.

It's also constant action whereas, in a regular soccer game, there are plenty of breaks in between plays. Once a team wins the city/region they are playing in, they get flown out to Miami to play for the United States championship. From there they can advance to the championship game where the team gets flown out to Brazil to play for the championship and meet Neymar. Last year, Anjos de Bola, or Ball Angels took home the championship trophy.

In the United States alone, there are 700 teams signed up to play, with over 2,000 players spread out within those teams. More than 47 countries were represented last year, including Egypt, Qatar and Jordan to name just some. However, this year there are over 50 countries spanning six continents hosting the tournament and looking to achieve the goal everyone here has; win the championship.

Eddie Salcedo, a manager of the tournament in Phoenix, summed up the rules plain and simply.

“Global five-a-side signature soccer tournament is taking place in 53 countries for male and female players. Neymar Jr. helped devise a special twist: a five-player team loses one player each time they concede a goal until there are no players left, or the 10-minute game end.”

Salcedo also was quick to call the tournament a success so far. “Neymar Jr’s Five is in its second year and after a highly successful first year and with increased participation in year two, we are looking forward to growing the tournament going into year three,” Salcedo said.

The real question is why would Neymar Jr. make a tournament based off of futsal and not soccer, the sport where he has risen to one the best there is in the world?

Salcedo said, “Neymar Jr's Five started last year, as Neymar Jr. wanted to create a tournament that mirrored his style of play growing in Brazil.”

In an interview with FourFourTwo about his upbringing and career, Neymar stated that Futsal has helped him become who he is as a player today. “Futsal had a massive influence on me when I was growing up. It’s a very demanding game and it really helped to develop my technique, speed of thought, and ability to perform moves in tight spaces. I think futsal is a fundamental part of a footballer's life,” Neymar said.

Neymar added, “When you’re out there playing, you’re forced to think fast and move faster – if you lose a second, the ball will be gone. It’s a more dynamic game and it’s come in handy at Barcelona... There’s no doubt futsal has helped me a lot in my career, it’s one of the biggest passions in my life. I used to love playing it, but unfortunately, I had to stop when I was 13 or 14 in order to grow up as a footballer.”

A lot of the players in the tournament think of Neymar as an idol, including Mario Pacheco, who plays on the “Chakalakas.” “Neymar is one of my idols and I am a fan of [FC] Barcelona also,” Pacheco said.

The Chakalakas won the Phoenix bracket last year and made the trip to Miami to play for the plane ticket to Brazil and a chance to win the tournament, unfortunately, they came up short like so many other teams.

II. Tournament Day

It was a warm Saturday at Fear Farm in Phoenix. The field was filled with many people there to play in the tournament while others were there to watch and support. Red Bull, who sponsors the event, was there giving out free water and red bulls to everyone in attendance. With the 240 players entered in the tournament, the excitement and determination radiated throughout the field.

Pacheco, who has been there before, was ready to get on with it. “I don't know, we played last year and won the Phoenix qualifier… We [prepared] the same [for this year's tournament],” Pacheco said.

Pacheco started playing soccer at a young age. He said, “I started playing soccer when I was seven years old. I played with my little cousin and played on my uncle's team, nothing too big.”

With four fields hosting games at a single time, there was constant action until the round of 16 started. At this point, Pacheco and the Chakalakas were ousted, and there was officially going to be a new team to come out the Phoenix region.

The two teams in the final were Rams FC and New Level. As the 10 minutes match concluded with no goals scored by both teams, the match went into what is called a faceoff. It's one on one where the first player to score wins the match for his team. Within the first minute of the faceoff, Rams FC scored, booking their flight to Miami.

Rams FC player Justin Almanza has never been on a plane before. “It means a lot. I always wanted to do something, I mean I have never really traveled, so it's really exciting. First time flying and get to go to Miami,” Almanza said.

As excited as the Rams FC were, 24 hours earlier they did not even know they were going to play. “First of all, we were all out of it and we were like let's sign up, and it just happened. We are all excited,’ Almanza said. He later added “Actually, we did not really prepare for the tournament.I did not even have a team until last night when we came up with five players. It feels amazing.”

As for how they came up with the name Rams, Almanza said, “Most of us played in high school, that is why we came up with Rams team name, that's our high school team.”

Rams FC just signed up and played.

“I do not know. I just think we have a good team and we knew there was a lot of competition but we just came here and played that's it,” Almanza said.

As for New Level player Tafadzwa Tee, he was disappointed with the loss but happy to be playing in a tournament like this.

“Nothing really, we just got to finish our one on ones, you know at the end day, we just got to put the ball in the net. I mean, it was just a good atmosphere, a lot of great players. It was really fun,” Tee said.

As the Rams held up the big, blown up boarding pass that had in big letters “PHX to MIA,” Almanza pointed to his teammate who scored the goal in the faceoff and said “I was not nervous, but he was,” while laughing.

The Rams will now head to Miami on an all expenses paid trip on June 10th to take on the champions of all the cities that hosted the tournament in the United States. From there, they are hoping for a trip to Brazil to not just play for the championship but to meet Neymar Jr.

All the players looked as though they had a lot of fun, and even some expressed interest in coming back next year to play, including Tee despite the loss. Tee said, “Yeah, most likely we will be back next year.”

Almanza, who could not take the smile off his face while hugging his teammates said, “Super excited, I just do not have any words for it at all.”




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