Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Juventus v Real Madrid---the All Stars

This match,  the UNESCO Cup ,is one of my favorite fixtures in futbol.  I happened across it on the ESPN soccer feed on my stream.   The Cup raises money for fighting racism and related ills.  In this particular case, money goes to help repatriation of child soldiers from Africa.   And that is great.   But I was particularly charmed because the match brings back squads of players whose names we recognize from years gone by,  players who carried the colors and the passion of these two great clubs years past.   If I'm not mistaken some of the grizzled veterans on the field were in the O50 category.   

I enjoyed watching Davids and Ferrara and Zidane and more out on the pitch,  moving the ball at a slower pace,  laughing frequently at one play or another,  and obviously loving the experience of being in the game with long longstanding friends/foes.    The match ended with Real notching 5 goals to Juventus' 1 .   

The pleasure for me was to see these soccer legends playing the game with nothing more on the line than enjoyment in the experience and the opportunity to do some good in the world with their skills.   I found myself thinking I'd be happy to see any of them show up for the old guys' Saturday morning kick around.   

I hope that we see more of these fixtures,  both for the good they might do in raising money to help good causes and for the message they send that age is not an inevitable barrier to being active.

Taking a moment for those who serve

Playing soccer is easy.   All over the world one common assertion about why the game is the world's most popular is that it takes little more than a bundle of rags fashioned into a ball and two sets of markers- stones, lines in the dust, tree branches--  at each end of an imagined pitch to make the game possible.
Here in the civilized and modern world, though, playing, even at the lowest amateur levels, requires organization, field rental, liability insurance,  scheduling, arrangement for officials. Were it not for the volunteers who give their time to make all these things possible,  soccer would not be just the most popular but the most commonly played sport.   For adult men in Oregon and SW Washington the Greater Portland Soccer District is the USSF affiliated league which manages the mechanics of teams from a Premier Division through several leagues and age-defined groups all the way up to O58.    And this kind of structure makes soccer possible for men, women,  and youth all across the United States.
For several years,  The GPSD has been led by Terry Christopher,  a longtime believer in making amateur soccer available to as broad a group of men as possible.   Years back,  when my own involvement with the GPSD board was drawing to a close,  Terry had been there, serving the cause.   And Terry is not the only one.   Hugh Kalani has been the GPSD Secretary for more years than Terry has been President.   Other officers and at-large members give their time as well.  
Similarly,  volunteers make the Portland Youth Soccer Association and the Northwest Women's Soccer League function for other groups of soccer players.   Additionally,  Clubs exist and field teams within all these broad categories. 
I reflect on how important these individuals and organizational structures are to making access to the Game possible in particular this week because Terry Christopher has faced medical issues this week.   He's doing well, but the situation reminds me that his contribution is very important to all of us.  
And it stands as a blazingly stark contrast to what is being asserted about the world's game at the highest levels.


Sad….very sad.    Get well, Terry.   We need solid, honest guys like you in the game.