Oh, the places you will go in Calgary minor soccer!
By April Cruz
With the Olympics casting its net of excitement over most of us, it’s only suitable to reference an event of Olympic magnitude in the world of Calgary minor soccer.
An annual youth soccer tournament called The Gothia Cup happens in Gothenburg, Sweden in July. Not to overshadow the importance of other tournaments, but this one is in fact the largest for youth soccer in the world. Over 70 countries are represented with teams from every part of the globe.
This year marked the 37th Gothia Cup and some new bragging rights.
They broke thier own record of visitors attending the opening ceremony with 46,661 loud, passionate soccer players and supporters. As well, they featured a live feed on Gothia TV for the week long tournament. Friends and family not able to make the trip could virtually be there and watch the action.
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As reported on the Gothia Cup’s website, “In total, there were over 1.4 million unique visitors who followed the tournament.”
The event website is set up more efficiently than many tourism sites. Everything from transit, to where to eat and how to maximize the enjoyment of your stay is cleanly laid out. It even has its’ own app for any smart phone, as well merchandise, discount cards and more. It really is a big deal and all focused around youth soccer.
A great fact about this tournament is the affordability. Aside from the flight, once in Gothenburg, transit, accomodations and even meals are free or a nominal fee for players and their families.
From Canada, nine teams attended. From Calgary minor soccer, the under 16 Tier 2 girls of Blizzard Dynamite and the under 18 Tier 2 girls of WRC Colts, were there.
Susan Wierzba, mother of WRC Colts player #20 and wife of the coach, Paul Wierzba, went on this amazing trip with the team and shared some of the experience.
“They stayed in a technical vocational school. In that school were teams from Germany, England, the Netherlands, Sweden and during the evenings the kids would hang out together. They would scrimmage in the practice fields. They swapped old jerseys with the German team,” she said.
“The girls each found someone to connect with throughout the world and Facebook’s allowed them to continue those relationships,” she added.
That’s a quick way to gain a few hundred Facebook friends.
Susan was awestruck with the organizational aspect of the tournament.
“To have the opening ceremonies with the level of entertainment that they did, to have the venues available that they did, the venues and transportation were free. The entire city just welcomes these soccer players with open arms,” she said.
The girls also took an opportunity to ensure Calgary was recognized.
“Our girls came into the opening ceremonies, we had some jackets made up ahead of time and one of our families got the Stampede hats and they panned our girls in the stands and put them up on the jumbotron,” Susan said. “It was quite an impression they made with their ‘Calgary look’. They were very good ambassadors for their families, for their club, for their city.”
For the under 18 Colts, these kinds of experiences with their team is the reason why parents put thier kids in Calgary minor soccer, says Susan.
“On our team, we have a group of girls that have been together for years. They truly are life-long friends. These kinds of experiences cement that. Relationships that they will take with them next year, when they scatter all over the country to go to University,” she said.
To see the opening ceremonies fireworks display, visit the event website under the ‘Gothia TV’ tab.
Admittedly, a tear was shed while this reporter and soft-hearted soccer fan watched. The idea of Calgary minor soccer players getting to be a part of this event is powerful.
Now if only we could generate that kind of excitement to support an event like that in our city.
Visit The Gothia Cup website for more information.