A new indoor soccer tournament – for the futsal version of the game – will be held in Hay River in May.
But it’s not just another tournament.
There are a couple of things that make the Elks Futsal DaRosa Cup very special.
First of all, it’s a test tournament for next year’s Arctic Winter Games (AWG).
“What this will do is it will allow our community to run a big soccer tournament prior to the Arctic Winter Games and kind of test some of our capacity and test some of the things that we’re going to do for futsal in the Arctic Winter Games so that we can get ready for it,” said Shelley Maher, a volunteer with Elks youth soccer and the manager of athlete services with the 2018 South Slave AWG.
“There are some things that we will do exactly the same as they would be run for the Arctic Winter Games,” she said. “So it’s like preparing our community for the Arctic Winter Games futsal tournament that will happen here in 2018.”
Futsal is a variation of indoor soccer played in the Arctic Winter Games that stresses fast play with a smaller, weighted ball that doesn’t really bounce.
The upcoming Hay River tournament, which is being run by the Elks in co-operation with the Arctic Winter Games, will have about 220 players and maybe 50 volunteers.
The AWG futsal tournament will have 260 or so players.
Another unique thing about the Elks Futsal DaRosa Cup is it is named after a 17-year-volunteer and player in Hay River – Daniel DaRosa.
“The reason that we wanted to name this tournament after Daniel was because, since he arrived in the community, he’s been offering his volunteer time and helping with the kids and coaching the kids committedly for years now,” said Maher. “We wouldn’t be where we are without his help.”
DaRosa said he was surprised when Maher called him and asked if he would mind if the tournament was named after him.
“‘Wow, that’s a huge honour,'” he recalled responding. “‘I’m so grateful to you guys for doing that.’ It just kind of took be aback.”
DaRosa, who has lived in Hay River for five years, was part of a group of a half-dozen people who were instrumental in reviving Elks soccer in the community, and it has grown since then.
What made DaRosa unique in that group was he was just 13 years old at the time.
“Soccer has always been my passion,” he said. “Coming here and seeing that there wasn’t much soccer, it was hard because it’s so popular all around the world.”
Looking back now, the Grade 12 student at Diamond Jenness Secondary School is happy to have helped revive soccer in town.
DaRosa will now have the unique experience of playing in a tournament that is named after him.
“I never had anything even close to that before,” he said. “So it will be a new experience for sure.”
Both DaRosa and Maher hope the tournament will become an annual event.
“The truth is a lot of us parents have been dreaming about and talking about this for years now,” said Maher.
She noted the tournament will be in soccer season when a lot of players in Hay River had to travel to tournaments in Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, Yellowknife, and even Grand Prairie, Alta.
“So we’ve really been dreaming of hosting one in Hay River to make it more accessible and closer, and get more kids playing,” she said.
The tournament will have divisions for ages ranging from under 12 to an open mixed division that can include adults.
Maher is hoping for out-of-town teams to participate, noting there will be a maximum of 24 teams.
All the games will be in the gym of Diamond Jenness Secondary School.
The registration deadline is April 20.
Stephane Millette, the chair for futsal for the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games, said the tournament, as a trial event, will help hammer out the details of all the international guidelines that organizers are receiving for the games.
“There’s a lot of details that go into it and a lot of specifications from the Arctic Winter Games and also for us from FIFA,” he said, referring to the international governing body for soccer. “If we don’t try those out ahead of time, we’re going to run into mistakes and problems at the games, and you don’t want that to happen.”
The DaRosa Cup will be a good test of scheduling, officiating and facilities, he said. “What we won’t have is we won’t be accommodating the teams in the same spaces that we will be accommodating them at the Arctic Winter Games themselves. And we won’t have to deal with the transportation of athletes and coaches and everything that we’ll have to deal with at the Arctic Winter Games. But at least we’ll do a trial of what’s specific to the sport and the actual futsal games.”