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Futsal brings a short, high-energy football game to a small paved area in Painesville.

June 17. While the Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians continued to lose the collective title in the 1990s, goaltender Otto Orff and the Cleveland Crunch professional futsal team had three championship victories.

Orff played for the Cleveland Crunch and the renamed Force from 1989 to 2004. But even while he was playing futsal in Cleveland, he also competed internationally in another sport, futsal.

He was Goalkeeper of the Year during the 1996 Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Futsal Football Championship in Guatemala. His team won this tournament and qualified for the Futsal World Cup in Segovia, Spain.

Today, Orff is a passionate advocate for a sport that bears similarities to football.

“I think this is the best way to develop young players,” he said.

On July 1, 2021, he traveled to Kiwanis Recreation Park in Painesville to help open what the city’s newscast called “Lake County’s first community futsal courts.”

“Wherever there’s a community that wants to try and get involved, I try to make it easy for the game,” Orff said.

But why futsal?

According to Orff, futsal can help aspiring footballers develop their skills. Teams are only five players long, games are two 20-minute periods, and the court is much smaller, resulting in a much faster game where each player gets more action.

“Compared to outdoor football or futsal or even seven-on-seven football, you get three to seven times – they are on average five times the number of touches for actually having the ball. on your feet,” Orff explained.

He added: “In futsal, the goal gets kicked about every 60 seconds, and if there’s one thing kids love, it’s kicking on goal and trying to score.”

Futsal also helps players develop passing skills. Orff said that, unlike futsal, there is no wall around the playing field. Because the field is much smaller and players lose possession if the ball goes out of bounds, they are more motivated to better control their passes.

Kevin Sindrik, Painesville Recreation Inspector added: “Futsal is a very fast paced sport that develops quick thinking and precise footwork. Teams must learn to work together in small areas, which develops useful skills that can be applied directly to the football field. “

The futsal ball is also smaller and heavier than a standard soccer ball. Sindrik said this “keeps the ball close to the ground to ensure the ball moves quickly.”

Orf promotes futsal not only as a tool for training, but also as a game for gym sessions and other social events. While football uses a large grass field, futsal requires a smaller, hard-surface pitch.

“This is where I think futsal has the potential to change the sport in the United States, in particular by addressing the lack of sports opportunities in urban areas, in inner cities and in disadvantaged areas,” he said.

In addition to promoting futsal as a recreational sport, Orff continues to contribute to the game in other ways. He is the Assistant Coach of the US Men’s National Futsal Team, which competed last year in the Futsal World Cup in Lithuania.

He is also the founder of the Heart and Sole Futsal Academy and the HandsOnSports Foundation, which, according to his website, promotes football and futsal by “providing equipment and coaching youth in communities where recreational opportunities are limited.”

Finally, Orff worked with a former Crunch teammate to co-found the Great Lakes Futsal League, which operates in Lorain, Strongsville, and Akron.

“We have one of probably the top 10 leagues in the country,” he said.

Locals looking to play futsal can head to the two courts located at Kiwanis Recreation Park in Painesville at 301 Latimore St.

“The futsal courts in Painesville were very popular during their first year of opening,” Sindrik said.

He added: “Futsal helps keep people active and promotes a healthy lifestyle. We see everyone, from kids to adults, playing on our indoor soccer fields.”

A complete list of rules is posted at the entrance to the courts, which are located deep in the park near the old tennis courts.

“The best way to learn is to come and play some pickup truck games,” Sindrik said.

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