Guatemala prepares for a football festival
From 18 November to 3 December 2000 the 4th FIFA Futsal (Indoor Football) World Championship will be held in Guatemala. The Central American country is well prepared to host its largest sportingcompetition ever and is looking forward to a great football festival.
Alfonso Portillo has been President of Guatemala since December 1999 and known for a long time as a knowledgeable football fan. Thus it has been a matter of honour for him to offer personal support to the local organising committee (LOC) for the FIFA Futsal World Championship Guatemala 2000 and also to guarantee it the backing of the government. The state has provided financial aid and other assistance for the construction of the Polideportivo 2000, the largest indoor arena for sports in Central America.
This is where most of the matches for this tournament, the 4th Futsal World Championship, will be held, and the building was basically planned for this competition, the largest sporting event ever to be held in Guatemala. Afterwards it will be used for other sports and also for cultural events, such as concerts.
It is an impressive building, with an especially striking roof design (see photos), and it seats about 7,500 spectators. Portillo made an inspection visit in August and at a subsequent press conference he stated that he was very positive about the progress of the construction, which has been completed in the meantime. He also expressed his optimism about the Futsal World Championship in his country being a success in every respect. This opinion is also shared by the president and vice-president of the LOC, Rafael Tinoco and Rafael Salguero.
The football festival will not be totally concentrated in the Polideportivo, since some matches will be played in a second hall, in the Gimnasio Teodoro Palacios Flores, which seats 4,000. This building was recently renovated and new flooring installed. Rafael Tinoco was enthusiastic: "We are ready for the World Championship and looking forward to it already."
One of the reasons for his optimism is the fact that the spectator turnout looks likely to be high, partly because the quality of the teams involved promises attractive football and partly because the entrance prices have been set to match local wage levels. The cheapest tickets should be available for just two or three US Dollars.
The enthusiasm of the officials and the general public in Guatemala was immediately evident at the end of August when the group draw was held in the colonial town of Antigua. The television pictures of the draw ceremony that went out from Antigua and Guatemala to the (football) world carried a totally positive message.
Expectations here are high that it will be a great competition. The 16 best futsal teams in the world will be there, including Brazil who have won all three of the previous World Championships in this relatively young form of the game.
In recent years the standard of futsal has risen considerably, and the game is enjoying a popularity boom. For the last championship in Spain 1996, 46 nations took part in the qualifiers, while this time there were 70 teams trying for a place in Guatemala. The number of countries in which futsal is played has risen to 90 and the number of players involved is going up all the time. For these reasons, FIFA has decided to hold a two-day symposium on futsal in Guatemala City at the same time as the tournament.