Futsal: One More Reason to Join Us at the Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival This Weekend

FutsalThe field is smaller, the action is faster, and the exciting modified form of soccer known as futsal will take center stage at this weekend’s Hispanic Festival.

On Saturday, Ottawa Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids will be transformed to host the first annual Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan 3-on-3 Futsal Tournament. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., featuring kids ages 8-18.

“We’re excited to partner with the Hispanic Festival on this new health and fitness initiative,” said eMily Aleman-McAlpine, Community Liaison, BCBSM. “With the popularity and timeliness of the World Cup, a three-on-three futsal tournament featuring these young athletes, will bring a new dynamic to the Hispanic Festival and promote fitness to a diverse community we’re committed to serving.”

Jose Rodriguez, owner of Ole Soccer, a West Michigan soccer club helping to organize the event, said their futsal program has rapidly expanded, especially with kids.

Players from Ole Soccer Club get ready for this weekend's futsal tournament.
Players from Ole Soccer Club get ready for this weekend’s futsal tournament.

“Everybody who tries it loves it,” Rodriguez said.

Smaller courts and futsal flooring, which is more like a gym floor than an outdoor soccer field, helps kids learn how to control the ball while building agility and coordination. Games are fast paced and everyone plays their part.

“There’s no time to hide on the field. There’s no time to rest,” Rodriguez said. “It just pushes you to think faster.”

Johnny Zamudio, 11, likes that with futsal, he gets more of an opportunity to show off his fancy footwork.

“You have fun,” he said.

Players at the Kentwood club come from all over and many are excited about playing this weekend. Students from Rockford, Forest Hills, Wyoming, Grand Rapids, and Grand Haven all make the twice-weekly trek to practice.

Andrea Pantoja, 13, said she’s made lots of friends through futsal and that the dedication and commitment it takes to get to national level championship matches, which the club did last year, is worth it in her eyes.

“You just feel proud because you worked so hard,” she said.

In addition to futsal, there are plenty of other family-friendly activities to enjoy at this year’s Hispanic Festival, which kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Along with lots of great food and entertainment, other new opportunities include:

  • A John Ball Zoo-sponsored Monarch butterfly release on Friday at 12:30 p.m. along with butterfly related activities for children from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • An expanded Mercado featuring a new area for emerging artisan small businesses, to showcase their wares during the festival.
  • A children’s craft area featuring Mexican Yarn Art, put on by the Grand Rapids Children Museum.

“The Hispanic Festival features free and diverse stage entertainment, authentic food and beverage options, and activities that celebrate many Latin American countries,” explains Carlos Sanchez, Interim Director, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan.

The annual event is a fundraiser for the Hispanic Center, which underwrites educationally-based programs for the Latino and broader community.

Photo credit: Futsal (JEMs 2013)






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