There are many sides to Otto Orf: Cleveland soccer icon, indoor soccer star, futsal promoter, and friend of the beautiful game. What many people don’t know is that Orf is also a collector of all things soccer.
When did he know that soccer was the biggest thing on Earth? He was playing in an ethnic league in Fall River, Massachusetts. It was a league he spent a lot of time in despite his superstar status.
“I learned what soccer meant to people,” Orf commented. And it began to mean a lot to him. Today he loves watching soccer, teaching soccer, and talking about the history of the game. I have a feeling no one knows more about the indoor game than Otto Orf. Why? Because it was a game he helped build and it is something he is proud of.
If you measured his passion for the sport by the numbers of items in his memorabilia collection, he would surely be among the world’s biggest supporters.
He became a collector since he didn’t follow the traditional system to get it to college soccer and the pros.
“It connects me to the history of the game,” Orf added. “I wanted to share and learn more about it.”
Orf has over 10,000 items in his soccer memorabilia collection, including items dating back to the 1st World Cup. Many of his items are one-of-a-kind that can’t be found anywhere else.
Orf has a bit of everything imaginable: tickets, soccer cards, programs, pins, pennants, medals, balls, and autographs. His biggest prize happens to be items from the World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. These are rare, extremely valuable, and truly unique.
But his collection doesn’t stop there as he has collected something from every World Cup. Why is he fascinated with this event?
“The world stops for a month every four years,” Orf claimed. “It connects kids all over the world.”
Also known for his enthusiasm for growing the game, Orf was a late bloomer when it came to playing the sport itself. A natural athlete who also excelled at baseball, he became a goalkeeper as a sophomore in high school. He was born for the position, having all the key attributes: size, athleticism, a good arm, and a desire to learn more about the sport. He became the team’s Most Improved Player as a sophomore and junior before landing the MVP honor as a senior.
In an unorthodox move, Orf would play both soccer and baseball at the University of Buffalo before leaving college to turn pro in the USL with the Buffalo Storm. This was the beginning of an illustrious career that spanned 21 years. Orf played alongside real international soccer stars, players that spent time with the Peruvian, Scottish, and English national teams. He also had an opportunity to represent his country on an international level.
Orf is not only a superfan and soccer star, but also an international figure when it comes to the game of futsal. He had a seven year stint with the U.S. Men’s National Futsal Team, seeing time in CONCACAF qualifiers and the 1996 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
In the Midwest, Orf has been a one man futsal promoting machine, setting up leagues and facilities as well as training players in a new style of soccer, one that closely resembles street soccer. Futsal skills lead to exciting players that play for fun and for their fans. You might call it flair or creativity, but the end result is players more like Ronaldinho in his prime. Orf’s “Johnny Appleseed” ability to share his love and knowledge for the game in different ways has made soccer boom in the region.
His HandsOnSoccer camps are popular summer attractions, providing instruction to thousands of youth over the years. Orf understand the importance of young players, knowing that the ages of 4-7 are key periods for development. Players learn the foundations of the game, something that will give them a lifelong connection to the sport. This is where supporters and superfans are born.
If we had more supporters like Otto Orf, American soccer would be among the big boys of the sporting world.
Pelé is unquestionably the world’s greatest soccer ambassador, spreading his love of the Beautiful Revolution wherever he goes. He has become the game’s strongest supporter and has been the source of inspiration for millions around the globe. From the streets of New York to the fields of South Africa, Pelé Sports is a name synonymous with passion, creativity and innovating the game the way it should be played. A world without Pelé would be a world without soccer with millions missing out on the joy and the Beautiful Revolution we all love in this game.
Today’s supporters carry on the prestigious legacy of Pelé, growing and promoting the game in their own communities and passing the torch to a new generation of footballers. Mainstream media outlets have failed to give a face to these fans, people who do extraordinary things everyday and have stories that deserve to be told. Whether it is an Iraqi War veteran who is a passionate supporter of his favorite MLS side or a student making an impact on the college game, the concept of ambassadorship is alive and well here in North America. Today’s supporters are not hooligans or fanatics or even überfans, but rather gatekeepers to the true spirit of the beautiful game.
International Soccer Network, in conjunction with Pelé Sports, plans to celebrate the contributions of North American soccer fans every month with a new series of feature articles.