Toronto Wins the 2015 Pan American Games!

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Winning City to be decided in hours. North American futsal waits in anticipation.

November 6th, 2009.

Note: The article below was written before the vote had taken place. (Updated 5:05pm November 6th)

By: Kris Fernandes

At 5pm est today in Guadalajara, Mexico, the decision on who will host the 2015 Pan-American Games wil be made. Three cities have been lobbying non-stop for the last couple of years to impress the Pan-Am’s Selection Commitee; Bogota, Lima, and of course, Toronto.

Now why is this relevant news for futsal? One of the sports on the list for the games is indeed the international 5-a-side game and with a possible new futsal sports tile surface at the University of Toronto on the line, it is very exciting news for Canadian fans of the sport and, more imporatantly, would be a huge platform on which to showcase it to a nation that is still mostly unaware of its existence.

Futsal made its first entrance into the Pan-Am’s in 2007 when Rio de Janeiro played host. With Brazil being the epicentre of futsal, it was a natural fit that the sport made its debut in the land of samba. There was no surprise as the host nation beat out their bitter rivals from Argentina and several other nations, including the United States.

Although Pan-Am’s President Mario Vasquez Rana has declared that futsal won’t be played at 2011 games in Guadalajara, there is significant support from both the Canadian futsal and soccer communities in offering it if Toronto’s bid is successful. Of course, it will need a lot more influential support to make it happen and that can be provided by the many powerful members of FIFA, including one of its Executive Senior VP’s and Argentina Football President, Julio Grondona, who has long pushed for futsal to be included in the Olympics. 

Futsal is the only version of indoor soccer that FIFA supports, and testing it out at the Pan-Am’s in 2015 would be an ideal gateway into introducing it as a medal sport for the 2020 Olympics (It won’t be a medal sport in Rio 2016, but still may be included in a demonstrative capacity). 

Futsalcanada.ca spoke with the PR team at the Toronto Bid Commitee a few times this year to gather their thoughts on futsal’s inclusion if they were to win the bid. Though, naturally, they were cool to discuss anything further than winning the actual bid itself they came off quite positive on futsal and have already detailed their plans if it does go ahead.

The proposed venue would be situated at the yet-to-be-built $21 million-dollar Goldring Centre For High Performance Sport at U of T’s St. George Campus, a brilliant location, which is located right in the heart of the city at the intersection of Bloor West and St. George. It is slated for completion by 2014 and will seat 2000 spectators while offering a badly needed 3000 parking spaces. According to the commitee’s bid book, the futsal competition would take place from July 21st-26th which leads one to believe that an 8 team tournament format would be in place.

It was interesting to see in the November 4th edition of the Toronto Star feature a comparative chart between the three hopeful cities. In a ‘fun fact’ column (seen below) it mentions for Toronto “Among the sports making an appearance is futsal, which actually has a league in Toronto.” (Toronto Futsal League) while showing a picture of a futsal player controlling a ball.

Futsal has always been an underdog for these monstrous events, but its popularity is growing exponentially year after year worldwide so it would not be that surprising to see it added to the list of games if Toronto ends up scoring a goal down in Mexico today.

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