“Football/Soccer is a beautiful game because it belongs to us all. The world plays.” – Arsene Wegner
I vividly remember the 1st time I was introduced to soccer, I was a 6th grader at Sacred Heart junior high school in Van Buren. Our coach was a teacher of Lebanese descent named Sebouh Dersominian. I recall a bunch of old brown balls that had panels resembling volleyballs. 2 line drills of passing, trapping, dribbling and running soon ensued. I was hooked right then and there. Back in those early years there were no organized teams or leagues. Most games consisted of pick up in the school yard during recess (we weren’t afraid to get sweaty) or after school. Summer recreation was great. . . we were assigned to teams with colored t shirts as uniforms. The same team for soccer, basketball and baseball. What a great concept, much less specialized and focus on one sport which is what the experts now say is best for overall athletic development. Who knew that back in the 70’s in little old Van Buren we were practicing cutting edge stuff in the realm of athletics and youth development?
I remember organizing neighborhood games with white T shirts and magic marker numbers drawn crudely on our backs. 4 vs 4, 5 vs 5 on small pitches, backyards or dead end street is where all the action happened, and let me tell you the competition was fierce and furious . In junior high I experienced my first time being part of a real team with competitive games against other towns and schools. Wow! What fun. I began to develop the skills necessary to continue this beautiful game, but more importantly I obtained the extreme passion of the sport and all that is associated with it. Scoring my first varsity goal as a freshman vs Presque Isle, a game winner in a 2-1 win. What stands out about that goal was how Glen Chasse a senior and our teams best player grabbed and hugged me in jubilation and celebration. He was so happy and excited as was our entire team. I was beyond excited and loved that feeling of helping my TEAM win! I worked so hard, we worked so hard as a team to achieve future success and experience that feeling again and again. High school soccer in Van Buren was great. Class A for three years and class B for my senior year. Great coaches, Dave Pelton, Ken “Pit” Martin and Steve Lapierre, all hardworking competitive guys who challenged and motivated us everyday by instilling in us the belief the we could compete with anyone. Those coaches and all my teammates were responsible for my senior year culminating in an Eastern Maine championship.
College soccer was fun. I played on a below average team, but it was still soccer. Perhaps my highlight in college was that I had an opportunity to play against my best friend and high school teammate Alan Lapierre (who still plays to this day and is as tough as ever) and his Husson College team, we lost 3-1 but that wasn’t important. After college I played on and organized many summer league games and tournaments. I was introduced to Robbie Krul from Holland, perhaps the best player that I ever played with or against. I was lucky to recruit him to play for our teams but even luckier to call him one of my best friends to this day. As a 50 year old I was fortunate to play vs my son Jarryd and his UNE college team in an organized alumni game. It was difficult coming to the realization that I no longer had that quickness in my step.
“Field of Dreams” Many folks know that I have a regulation size soccer field behind my house, but few know why I built that 2.3 acres of green pitch. Well, the short story is that my men’s league team needed a place to play. After many years of using various high school fields the school officials decided that we could no longer use their(our) fields because, now get this; “we would damage it”! Wow, only one thing to do, build my own field not only for my men’s team but also for the elementary and junior high school kids here in New Sweden as there was no pitch at the school grounds.
A very good friend of mine, Dr. Claude Boma who loves soccer as much as me (probably more) from Cameroon by way of the United Kingdom whom I’ve played many games of soccer with would often organize games for young and old alike here in the Caribou area. This one particular summer Claude organized a series of games versus a group of migrant field workers from Mexico/Honduras. These players were scrappy, tough and talented. After working long hard hours in the broccoli fields they would hop on a bus and travel to New Sweden and the “Field of Dreams” to play spirited games vs my All star teams. After most games Claude and I would buy beer and pizza for us to share with our new friends from Mexico/Honduras. After the final game of the summer between us our opponents decided and planned a post game meal with authentic Mexican food. What a feast and celebration of truly an international game and a sharing of people and cultures made possible through soccer and our shared love of the sport.
I’ve played soccer, coached and trained young players all over the world (Holland, Italy, England, Spain) with Robbie’s Dutch soccer academy mostly. I’ve attended professional matches in the USA, England’s Premier league, Italian Serie A, Spain’s La Liga and Hollands 1st division . However, perhaps the best of times were right here on the “Field of Dreams” in New Sweden, Maine, in large part because we experienced what makes this game so beautiful. The simple pureness of playing the game with really nothing at stake. Hope, love of the game, fatigue, courage, loyalty and mutual respect of both our teammates and opponents, who after all are our FRIENDS.