by Bill Norris

Nine players and four staff members with ties to the Ontario Fury are competing this week at the Pan American Minifootball Championships in Guatemala, which start June 7.

Seven current players and two former members of the Fury are representing their countries at the tournament, a qualifier for the World Minifootball Federation World Cup, to be played in 2019.

Representing the United States are current players Israel Sesay, Andy Reyes, Marcus Jordan and Juan Gonzalez and former defender (and current member of the Baltimore Blast) Nelson Santana. Playing for Brazil are Thiago Goncalves and Leonardo de Oliveira, with the team being backstopped by original Fury goaltender Sanaldo. Colombia is represented by Alex Caceres.

Also among the United States staff in Guatemala are Fury President Bernie Lilavois as the head coach for the team. Lilavois is being assisted on the trip by the Fury’s Director of Soccer Operations Giovanni Gonzalez, team trainer Shelby Daly and Fury broadcaster Jose Duran.

“It is great to see the players and staff embracing the game of minifootball, as we try to expand the reach of small-sided soccer in the United States and across the world,” Lilavois said. “These players are showing that their skills are universal, no matter the size or shape of the field.”

The tournament is being played in Guatemala in the wake of the eruption of the Fuego Volcano, which has left portions of the country devastated. Tournament organizers and local officials declared it safe for the tournament to continue as planned, and has been dedicated to the lives lost in the tragedy.

The United States team arrived in Guatemala the evening of June 6 and will open tournament play against the host country June 7.

“We know we are going to be in for a tough, emotional fight in our opening game,” Lilavois said. “The Guatemalan team is going to be playing for not only the pride of their country, but for all the people who have been affected by this tragedy, so we will have our work cut out for us.”

Duran may end up being the busiest of all the Fury staffers in Guatemala, as he will be handling play-by-play duties for broadcasts from Guatemala by the Eleven Sports Network. Games will be shown live throughout the tournament on the network, which is available on DirecTV and several cable outlets across the country. Go to elevensportsusa.com to see if your television provider offers the Eleven Sports Network.

Fans can also follow updates from the games on social media, by following the American Association of Soccer 567 on Facebook and Twitter at @usasoccer567.