World Cup sparks interest in soccer locally

June 8, 2010 at 1:08 a.m.

Trystan Stanford, with the ball, approaches defender Johnathan Wesar as coach Natalie Ramsay watches during the Challenger soccer camp Monday.

Trystan Stanford, with the ball, approaches defender Johnathan Wesar as coach Natalie Ramsay watches during the Challenger soccer camp Monday.

Every four years the world's game comes into the forefront of the American sports consciousness and things are no different in Victoria.

The Victoria Youth Soccer Organization sees increased interest in the game during the most popular global sporting event.

"It is always really interesting how the hype of FIFA and the World Cup positively impacts the local programs whether that be in Victoria or elsewhere," said the origanization's treasurer, Omar Rachid.

"Everyone is talking about it especially since the USA have qualified," said Owen Davies, Director of the Challenger Sports British Soccer Camp in Victoria. "It's defiantly taken a massive interest to the nation."

Rachid said the VYSO picked up and additional 80 members during the last two World Cups and hopes to see a similar spike in membership this summer.

During the prep soccer offseason the VYSO runs pickup soccer games and host soccer camps, such as the Challenger British Soccer Camp currently in Victoria.

Melanie Allen has two soccer-playing sons participating in the camp.

"It's a really good opportunity for the kids," said Allen. "My kids always enjoy it and look forward to it."

Rachid said he knows the importance of providing instruction to young players in the summer.

"First of all it's a camp that is here in town so you don't have to travel to attend it, but more importantly it's the skill set they actually walk away from a soccer camp," Rachid said.

In addition to the camps Victoria soccer players can participate in off-season soccer pickup games this summer.

Rachid has been a witness to how the VYSO has helped players mature. Rachid referees prep soccer in the area.

"I've seen kids starting out playing soccer with very little knowledge and with very little skill and then I've seen them later on in life whether it be at the freshmen in high school or senior in high school and they've become tremendous players," said Rachid.

Rachid has been involved with the VYSO ever since he moved from Victoria from Dallas in 1994 and has seen the growth of soccer at the local level.

"We've come a long way," said Rachid. "We have more fields than ever before and overall the popularity of soccer has grown."

Although Americans have yet to embrace soccer like the rest of the world has, Rachid likes the fact that there isn't a mold for good soccer players.

"You don't necessarily have to be a certain weight or a certain height or a certain measure in order can play soccer," said Rachid. "Anybody of any shape of any height, whether they be vertically challenged or not and that's the neat thing about it."

Davies is in his second year as an instructor for the camp. The London native said that even though English soccer fans think Americans don't understand the game, he has seen how American youth he has instructed have improved in just a year.

"A lot of people have always said 'the Americans are not really too cleared up on soccer,' but even in one year I can see the majority of the kids here are involved in local teams, involved in local soccer. It's progressing on," Davies said.

With soccer growing in the US more and more American youth are picking up the game early, such as 10-year-old Trystan Stanford who has been playing the game since he was two.

"It's a lot of running, you can get fit real easy. It's real fun," Stanford said.

Craig Dawson Sr. son is also participating in the camp. Dawson has seen kids become intrinsically motivated to improve regardless if it's a World Cup year.

"Most of these boys if you watch they beg to go out to the fields everyday," said Dawson Sr. "It's a full on enjoyment for all of them."

Stanford can't wait for the opening match of the World Cup this Friday.

"I'm excited, I'm kind of hoping for England to win," said Stanford. "That's the only team I really know in the world cup."

Davis enjoys sharing his soccer knowledge with kids in America, but more importantly Challenger teaches kids respect, responsibility, integrity, leadership and sportsmanship; characteristics that will help kids off the pitch.

"It's important that they learn the prospective of soccer," said Davies. "It's just about being able to win or score goals it's about being responsible."

The 2010 FIFA World Cup gets underway Friday morning when host South Africa takes on Mexico. The USA opens World Cup play Saturday against traditional power England.



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