Saturday 10 September 2016, 10:45

Colombia primed for futsal festival

It was fitting that the initial press conference of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, held in the wake of an Organising Committee meeting, should take place in Cali’s Coliseo el Pueblo, the same impressive indoor arena that will stage the opening ceremony and the final of the eighth edition of the illustrious event.

In attendance were Jaime Yarza, FIFA’s Event Manager, Rafael Tinoco, Chairman-in-office of the FIFA Futsal Committee, Ramon Jesurun, Chairman of the Colombia 2016 Local Organising Committee (LOC), and Rodrigo Otoya, Chairman of the Cali LOC.

“The Local Organising Committee and the President of the Colombian Federation must be congratulated for the work they have put in,” said Yarza in his opening statement. “It has not been easy, but we are convinced that the efforts made by Cali, Bucaramanga and Medellin will produce a very well-organised Futsal World Cup, one we will all be very satisfied with.”

Tinoco struck a similar note. “It’s a pleasure to be here,” he said. “We have seen how dedicated the LOC was to hosting this World Cup and we would like to congratulate them. Colombia is prepared.”

Jesurun, meanwhile, first expressed his gratitude to the key figures alongside him on the podium, and then made a point of recognising the local and national authorities, as well as the support received from the private sector, epitomised by Colombian international cement company Argos.

“Argos’ involvement has been vital for futsal in Colombia. They have been sponsoring the Colombian league (Liga Argos) for over five years, and now they have linked up with FIFA to sponsor the Futsal World Cup. We are extremely grateful to them,” he noted.

Otoya also passed on his thanks, and then encouraged locals to show their support for the event. “I’m grateful to everyone who has helped to organise this event and get it ready in time for the opening ceremony and the matches,” he said. “Cali residents should get out and fill the stands and enjoy the opportunity that FIFA has given us to experience another major tournament in our city.”

This is a joyful event that very few countries get the honour of hosting.

Responding to a journalist’s question about why fans in Cali and the other host cities should attend FIFA Futsal World Cup matches, Jesurun made a persuasive case: “Today, futsal is one of the most attractive sports in the world. You’ll see some of the magic that some say has been lost in modern football every time a team puts a move together. It will be a top-quality spectacle; the greatest players in the world will be right here.”

“People living in the three host cities should definitely take an interest,” said Tinoco. “It’s something different – it’s beautiful to watch, and it has its own special magic. Don’t miss it!”

Leaving a legacy Although a ball has not yet been kicked, a recurring question was already emerging from the press conference: what kind of legacy will the Futsal World Cup leave behind in Colombia? “All the work carried out by the host cities and the Federation, such as improving facilities, will remain in place, benefitting sports teams and the general public, and any sport that ends up using the three arenas in the future,” explained Yarza. “All three are now world-class venues.”

Tinoco, a Guatemalan, experienced this first-hand 16 years ago at Guatemala 2000. “We know that it will leave its mark on Colombia, because that’s what happened in Guatemala, in terms of facilities and public enthusiasm,” he recounted.

In Jesurun’s opinion, aside from gaining improved arenas and tourism-related benefits, Colombia will also have learnt a great deal from hosting the competition. “Learning to organise this type of event is important – it’s an experience that will remain with a lot of the men and women working day in and day out on making this World Cup a success,” he said.

Yarza was keen to emphasise two of the tournament’s potential positive knock-on effects. “First, we hope that Colombia 2016 will demonstrate to the world how much futsal has developed and strengthened, from an organisational as well as a sporting point of view. We believe that the passion of the Colombian fans will help to boost the sport’s image so that it can continue to develop further.

“Second, we hope to help strengthen the Liga Argos – and futsal in general in Colombia – and turn it into one of the world’s best leagues, thereby building on the progress made by the national team when they finished fourth at Thailand 2012.”

Jesurun concluded the press conference with some advice for his compatriots. “This is a joyful event that very few countries get the honour of hosting; we Colombians have been entrusted with this task. The best way to respond is to fill our arenas, and be our usual friendly selves, because that’s the Colombian way.”