MOUNT VERNON — While not an official indicator of things to come, it was a notable introduction.
The Cedar Rapids Rampage hosted the Kansas City Cyclones Saturday night in the basketball gymnasium at the Small Multi-Sport Center at Cornell College, in what is believed to be the first professional futsal exhibition match in the state of Iowa.
“It’s awesome to introduce a game that is developing a lot of great players in other countries,” said Cedar Rapids indoor and outdoor player Bobby Hurwitz, who scored two goals for the Rampage in an 9-5 loss to the Major League Futsal club. “It’s the basis of how every country gets their players as good as they are. It’s great to introduce it here in America, and for the first time here.”
Futsal — a popular variation of soccer that is played primarily indoors on a hard court — has been enjoyed internationally for decades and is beginning to gather steam in this country. Billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, is among the more notable principal investors from both the NBA and soccer clubs around the world that has the Professional Futsal League looking at a 2018-19 launch in the United States.
With an initial PFL ownership investment in the $2 million range, a franchise in Cedar Rapids would be unlikely.
“As of now, we’re not thinking too far ahead of us,” Cedar Rapids player-coach Hewerton Moreira said. “We want to make sure that we are introducing the futsal to Iowa, as well to the population, to understand the game a little bit more. … Maybe we can bring awareness of the game.”
Moreira is part of the Wisconsin Sports Group, an organization that recently converted two unused outdoor tennis courts into one futsal court at a Milwaukee public park. The experience reminded Moreira of his native Brazil, where the urban setting was more conducive to a futsal game that only required five players per side and a hard surface. Also, participation in organized traditional outdoor leagues was limited to children age 12 and above. Younger children had one option for organized high-level competition — futsal.
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“You get more touches on the ball,” Moreira said. “If you are playing futsal with five players and one of them a goalkeeper … you only share time with three more players. 25 percent of the time you have the ball. I think that is why kids around the world play futsal much more than in the United States.”
Former Cedar Rapids Washington, Cedar Valley Christian and Drake player Kenan Malicevic and Cornell College player Pietro Amado also scored for the Rampage. Former Washington and Coe player Jacob Johnson, as well as Xavier graduate Connor Ramlo, also appeared for Cedar Rapids.
At halftime of the match, youth athletes from the Cedar Rapids Power Soccer Association — which provides power wheelchair users the opportunity to play soccer — demonstrated their specialized equipment during a short game. A portion of the proceeds from the futsal exhibition were donated to the nonprofit organization.
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