Buenos Aires back in the spotlight
Following the thrills of the 1978 FIFA World Cup Argentina™ and the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2001, Buenos Aires is all set to play host to another global extravaganza featuring nifty footwork and brilliant ball skills: the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, which will take place from 6 to 18 October.
On this occasion, football will be making way so that its cousin, futsal, can take a step forward, with both men's and women's tournaments to be contested. These will be just two of the competitions in the latest edition of this festival of youth sport put on by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will include 32 different sports.
"Buenos Aires will be the centre of the Olympic world in October," said IOC President Thomas Bach, looking ahead to the event in the Argentinian capital, which has a population of around three million people. This rises to almost 13 million for the metropolitan region (Greater Buenos Aires).
The German could not hide his excitement about an event that he backed to have a transformative impact: "I think it's fair to say that we can expect the Youth Olympic Games to mark a new era in Buenos Aires."
The city's Undersecretary for Sport, Luis Lobo, spoke in similar terms: "It's fantastic to bring the Games to Buenos Aires. It's an event that's going to be followed all over the world. We're working extremely hard to support sport and to ensure that these Youth Olympic Games leave a social, cultural, economic, and sporting legacy."
Two super stadiums to fuel futsal passion The Argentinian people's football fever is world-famous and there is every reason to believe that they will show just as much fervour for futsal, not least considering that they are the current men's world champions.
As was the case at the 1978 World Cup, when the homes of River Plate and Velez Sarsfield were buzzing during matches, and in 2001, when Velez's stadium was once again part of the fray, the Tecnopolis and CeNARD venues are expected to be brimming with fans for this year's action.
The Tecnopolis will be the futsal focal point, staging the medal matches, the semi-finals, and several first-round encounters. This facility, which opened in 2011 to house an annual science and technology fair of the same name, will be welcoming futsal for the first time, but has previously hosted tennis, basketball, and handball games. Its stadium will boast a capacity of 4,000.
The secondary venue will be the Polideportivo Leon Najnudel complex at the CeNARD, Argentina's National Centre of Elite Sporting Performance, which is regularly used for indoor sports matches and will be able to accommodate a 1,000-strong crowd during the Games. It will host first-round fixtures and teams' training sessions.
Futsal has been held there before, specifically during CONMEBOL's inaugural South American League last year.
"It's a really big deal that Argentina is hosting and organising an event like this one," said Sergio Aguero, one of the Argentinian national football team's star strikers, to the Games' official website.
"It's wonderful that so many young people from different parts of the world will be coming to our country, above all because of what Olympism stands for and what they're going to learn about it. I have no doubt that it's going to be a celebration of sport. I hope the public and the young athletes enjoy it."