The FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 is fast approaching. Indeed, the build-up has already begun, as shown by the event held on Tuesday 19 April at the Reynaldo Orduz Auditorium in Bucaramanga's Parque del Agua water park, which witnessed the launch of the Official Mascot, the logos of the Host Cities and the first phase of ticket sales – all key aspects of the tournament set to take place from 10 September to 1 October.
"It is with real pleasure and a true honour we be present at this beautiful location, surrounded by nature, in the first big event that the city of Bucaramanga will host on its count down to the FIFA Futsal World Cup. Today we are exactly 143 days away," said Ramon Jesurun, the President of the Colombian Football Association, in his welcome speech minutes after the Colombian national anthem was sung to kick off proceedings.
Other notable figures present included the Mayor of Bucaramanga, Engr. Rodolfo Hernandez Suarez; the Governor of Santander, Didier Tavera Jaime; FIFA Event Manager Jaime Yarza; Director of Coldeportes, Andrés Botero; and the Director of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Ivan Novella.
"Let us receive you, and all the national teams with their delegations, that from diverse places of the world will come to our land to be welcome with open arms...From today you are all 'santandereanos' (from Santander) like any of us, because who 'steps on Santander's land, is from Santander'," said Governor Tavera, while some 150 guests and 40 representatives from the domestic and international press listened on intently.
Fittingly, Bucaramanga's logo for the tournament was the first to be presented, through a video showing images of the city and featuring a soundtrack of typical regional music, before the logos for Cali and Medellin respectively got the same treatment. Between them, these three venues will be playing host to the competition's 24 teams and 52 matches.
Ticket sales up and running
After the Match Schedule was brought up on the big screen, this was followed by one of the highlights of the night: the official launch of ticket sales. During this initial phase, fans will be able to purchase city passes, which offer one ticket of the category of the buyer's choice to every single game in a particular Host City. The special incentive is that a 30 per cent discount will be on offer at this time.
"From a personal point of view, I really want to invite all fans to come to the World Cup matches," said Yarza. "Even though we still don't know all the qualified teams, we can already promise a great competition: besides powerhouses like Brazil, Spain, Italy, Russia and Iran, we will also have Azerbaijan, a debutant at the tournament, and Vietnam, a country that had never qualified for a FIFA event before. The level of playing will be very high, and those who attend the stadiums will be very impressed."
The Visa pre-sale period will begin on 20 May, the day after the Official Draw takes place in Medellin. From this date, individual tickets for every fixture will be available at the normal price.
During the Visa pre-sale period, Visa cardholders have the exclusive opportunity to purchase FIFA Futsal World Cup match tickets using their Visa cards before tickets go on sale to the general public on 3 June 2016. Visa is the preferred payment method of Colombia 2016 and its cardholders will be entitled to a 20 per cent discount on city passes during the Visa pre-sale period, which runs until 3 June. Visa will be the only payment method accepted during the pre-sale period.
The third and final phase of ticket sales will then begin and be made available to the general public, though city passes will no longer be available by this stage. For more information, go to http://www.fifa.com/Colombia2016.
A bear with glasses!
The most eagerly awaited moment came towards the end of the event. Preceded by jungle noises, a pitter-patter and footprints on the wall leading to the stage, the tournament's Official Mascot – a fun-and-football-loving spectacled bear and the Colombian national team kit – made his appearance. The type of bear in question is one of the most iconic animals in the region: indeed, it is one of the faces of Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, the organisation tasked with protecting the biodiversity of the country's nature reserves, and is also classed as part of Colombia's natural heritage.
The mascot is energetic, adores sport and embodies the pleasure of playing football. Furthermore, it is friendly, smart and talented, attributes that make it the perfect ambassador for the tournament and for futsal in general.