There’s lots of excitement surrounding the Futsal Copa North America, an event happening in Cleveland, Ohio this weekend. Players, coaches, and teams will be converging on the 6th City from all over North America. Yes, people are traveling from as Canada, Suriname, Guadeloupe, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Michigan to just be part of this elite event. It’s hard to award homefield advantage with so many teams traveling in for the tournament, but the most local one is Columbus Futsal Club from Columbus, Ohio.
Otto Orf, the event’s organizer, has been the man with a mission and he’s clearly pulled off a world-class event right in his backyard.
“I have a 20-year history with the game of futsal. After playing so many years of professional soccer, futsal gave me the chance to play for our national team. Now as the Director of Ohio North Futsal, the object is to show the kids that were playing in our leagues for the last ten years what’s next for them and what they can do. We’re trying hard with a group people in our country to develop a professional league. These gentleman are doing the same things in their countries.”
This event is just one small piece of Orf’s work to grow the game in Northern Ohio and it’s quite clear that he has a bigger vision for what could happen there in the future.
“Ohio North President Paul Emhoff and Vice President David Ehlert have given their blessing to do this for the sake of the 48,000 members in Northeast Ohio because they believe futsal will help the development of every soccer player that participates in it. Everyone from these different countries are grassroots futsal guys themselves and at the end of the day we all have a real passion for the game. We understand what it can do for our kids. At the pro level, if we have something for kids to look up to then they aspire to play at this level.”
U.S. Futsal National Team head coach Keith Tozer had high praise for Orf and Ohio North.
“I’d like to congratulate Otto Orf, someone who has been a great advocate for futsal over the years. He has done a wonderful job bringing this great event to Ohio. The level of play, the FIFA referees, and the teams provide a wonderful opportunity for great futsal. I’d also like to congratulate Ohio North for the fortitude and vision for hiring a full-time futsal director. They are clearly on the cutting edge.”
According to Tozer, events like the Futsal Copa North America help grow the game.
“Many people have not seen quality futsal other than on YouTube. It’s great to see futsal played at such a high level; people are sure to fall more in love with the game.”
Steve Bistoquot, a member of the Olympic Development Committee in Guadeloupe, was present at the Goodyear Hall training sessions earlier today. He is a major figure in growing the sport in Guadeloupe and the Caribbean and he was quite bullish about the event.
“We couldn’t say no to the invitation. We’ve enjoyed Ohio, the city, the country, and Goodyear Hall. We’ll try to be the best on Saturday and Sunday. ”
Ralph Verwey, President of Futsal in Suriname, was another high-level official in attendance.
“Futsal is a growing sport. Soccer is the #1 sport in Suriname. With futsal we can make a bigger difference developing youth to the senior level. We’ll be here next year participating with a team.”
It’s evident that Orf has put together yet another great event; this is likely to be one that has a lasting effect and an even bigger impact on the beautiful game in Northern Ohio.
Daniel Cermak also contributed to this report.