The Dayton World Soccer Games are on!
It’s been said that Americans don’t know much about football. The “real” football, mind you. Not the one with the oblong pigskin, the helmets, the cheerleaders. The one with the round, black-and-white ball. The one in which players are allowed to use their feet.
Other parts of the world, however, do know a bit about football. Luckily, Dayton knows a bit about people from other parts of the world. For the second year in a row, the city is preparing for the Dayton World Soccer Games, to be held Sept. 13 and 14 at Action Sports Center, 1103 Gateway Dr.
The event is an initiative of the Welcome Dayton Plan, a city project intended to promote awareness and interaction in Dayton’s immigrant communities.
“What we wanted was to look for a natural way for citizens of the city of Dayton and the surrounding communities, [as well as] local college students, to participate in a competitive activity that wasn’t specific to any one nation,” said John Parker, senior athletic program coordinator for the City of Dayton Recreation and Youth Services. Soccer is the world’s number one sport. We thought that would be a natural, competitive sport that would bring different folks from different nationalities together.”
Parker also said soccer was a good fit for the city of Dayton, noting that big tournaments like the Adidas Warrior Classic draw thousands of people into the area every year.
The Dayton World Soccer Games’ inaugural year featured 15 youth and eight adult teams, each donning the colors of a different country, from the United States to Africa United.
The event is held at Action Sports Center, which has three youth fields and three adult fields. The complex houses the City of Dayton Recreation and Youth soccer program, which partners with the Dayton Area Soccer Association for youth soccer and provides many of the youth teams in the tournament. Other teams hail from nearby Vandalia and surrounding cities; many are comprised of students from University of Dayton, Wright State University and Sinclair Community College. In many instances, the composition of these teams has as wide a scope as the countries they represent.
“We’re trying to take a holistic approach,” Parker said, “to see the world through the lens of soccer to represent those countries and make it a fun event.”
The event kickoff begins Friday, Sept. 13, with the Dayton Police Department looking for a rematch against defending champions, Dayton Fire, in a scrimmage game.
“It’s always fun to compete, especially with people you work with,” said Officer Christopher Pawelski, who played forward and half-back on Team Police last year and will take the field again this weekend, “and the Police/Fire game usually draws a crowd.”
This year, the kickoff scrimmage will feature honorary coaches, with Dayton Commissioner Joey Williams heading Team Fire, and Commissioner Matt Joseph, Team Police. Since Dayton Fire took home the title last year, Pawelski says Team Police is looking to settle the score.
“It’ll always stay friendly,” Pawelski said, “but the competition will be healthy.”
The half-time break will present another treat for sportsmen and spectators as the youth and adult members of each team will process through the complex in a parade of nations, flying flags borrowed from Wright State University.
Among them: Mexico, Austria, Turkey, Ireland, Sudan and Saudi Arabia – the team which took home the adult championship last year, and is hoping for a repeat this weekend.
“We can win this tournament I think,” said Saleh Altheneyan, an engineering student at Wright State, and the captain of this year’s Saudi Arabia team.
Altheneyan, a native of Saudi Arabia, didn’t participate in last year’s games, but he says he’s aware of his team’s (short) legacy.
“Yeah, [there’s] pressure to win again,” he said. “My friends told me about the team last year. I hope to win again, but we play for fun.”
This year’s Saudi Arabia team is comprised of Wright State students like Altheneyan. Most of the players, 15 or 16 Altheneyan says, are from Saudi Arabia. The rest of the 20-man roster is from Kuwait.
A total of at least 15 teams will participate in this year’s games, representing as many countries. And while they’ll all be playing for the love of the game, you can be sure they’ll be playing to win.
Team check-in and kick-off events for the Dayton World Soccer Games will begin at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 13 at Action Sports Center, 1103 Gateway Drive. First-round games will begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. The adult championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit daytonworldsoccer.org.