Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Universal Language of Soccer...

My colorful U12 team includes: 2 Somali-Bantus, 1 Thai, 7 Bosnians and 5 home-grown Utica boys. Oh yeh, I was born in Japan (the Japanese are said to be the earliest players of soccer know as "Kemari" in Japan)

I coach youth soccer in Utica, and I can also be found playing pick up soccer with "the boys" at Proctor or at the field on Middle Settlement Rd., when I can find the time and the energy.

Whether I am coaching or playing, whether the players are homegrown Americans or recent refugees from Bosnia, Somalia, Thailand or Burma, there is one thing in common we all have; a pure love and joy for the sport of football-soccer. Ask any of these players about the outcome of recent World Cup matches, and they'll know not only the score, but most details of the game as well. This love of sport transcends our language barriers as I will often be approached at Proctor Park by Burmese boys who want to share a soccer field with them, or have Somali-Bantu boys wanting to "spar" with me and my soccer ball. They will play until there is no one left to play with, and only go home when there is no more light on the field.

When my teams practice they want to practice and scrimmage with our teams and when we have games they often come to watch. As a soccer purist, it is a delight for me to see the amount of activity there is on any given night at Proctor and South Parks in Utica. Refugee families are often out on weekends or evenings with their players, sharing in their favorite past-time. They enjoy the comraderie, the fun, and the beauty of being outdoors in the park on a beautiful summer day or evening.

You don't have to understand or love soccer to appreciate all that soccer does to help bridge people from all over the world and especially here in Utica. Some lovely summer evening head down to Proctor Park and catch a game under the lights, look around and listen, and experience soccer like millions of people around the world do every day.

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