Ryan Giggs rolls back the years at Premier Futsal 2017 finals in Dubai
For the spectators speckled across the stands at Al Wasl Club on Tuesday, it quickly became apparent the days of watching Ryan Giggs ‘tearing apart’ teams are long gone.
The flying Welsh wonder at Manchester United has transformed into a Franz Beckenbauer-lite for his dotage. Searching passes from deep, rather than searing runs from the left wing that earned his iconic chant, are the order of the day now the Premier Futsal finals have got under way in Dubai.
Time catches up to all men. Even those equipped with the unique electric ability and ceaseless desire to succeed which saw the one-club man him sweep up a historic 35 major trophies from 1990-2014 – the second-highest tally in the history of football after Brazilian left-back Maxwell’s usurpation last summer.
His athleticism has declined, though decades worth of experience at the top level saw the impact substitute orchestrate a 10-7 victory for his Mumbai Warriors against prolific ex-Argentina and Internazionale striker Hernan Crespo’s Chennai Singhams on opening night.
Metronomic former team-mate Paul Scholes, Brazil magician Ronaldinho, gifted Portugal playmaker Deco and dogged Spain scrapper Michel Salgado all have embraced this futsal tournament in retirement. Yet a struggle to master the small pitch, smaller ball and reduced players even impacts such luminaries of the 11-a-side game.
“I played futsal for the first time last season and for a football player it was difficult, especially when you are playing against professional futsal players,” commented Giggs.
“In lots of ways, it is the same as football. There’s a ball, you have to score goals and score more than the opposite team.
“But tactically and technically it is much different. It is like basketball some times.
“This year has been successful also [the previous rounds were played in India], with the added bonus of coming to Dubai.
“I personally have a good relationship with Dubai. I have come here 25 or 30 times on holiday or business – I love the place.
“It is a great competition, which is getting stronger and stronger. It is something I enjoy playing.”
The creaking wooden boards of Wasl’s basketball court are usually tread on by the local league’s players, mere sideshow on Dubai’s sporting map.
An entirely different scale of athlete are somewhat-incongruously competing on them until Sunday’s showpiece. Giggs and Scholes ran out in front of more than 75,000 spectators at Old Trafford throughout their decorated careers, with their lionised fellow captains in Premier Futsal being household names for hundreds of millions across the globe.
In this reduced arena, the Welshman settled for teeing up his uncelebrated colleagues against Crespo’s challengers. The highlight of his limited attacking forays was an under-hit lob that gently bounced into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Giggs should hope this was the warm-up for what is to come. A serial winner, barely without compare, will surely not pass up an opportunity to add another trophy in the coming days.