Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

March 4, 2014

Soccer league brings international community together

Americus Adult Soccer League has successful first season

AMERICUS — The Americus Adult Soccer League put the finishing touch on a its inaugural season on Sunday at the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department (SCPRD) soccer field. The season was a success in many ways, says co-organizer of the league, Justin Minich, who saw the need for the adult soccer league in the community.

The notion of an adult league grew out of the experience of  Minich with friends Abram Carillo, Juan Ardaca and Memo Brito all coaching in the fall youth soccer program with the Recreation Department. Early 2013 planning began shortly after a tournament in Plains that was organized for the Hispanic Arts Festival. They began planning and making contact with those who they thought would be interested in participating.

“There are so many people in town that are interested (in soccer,” Minich explained, “but not many opportunities to play.”

He notes that the growing Hispanic population in Americus and Sumter County is one of the main reasons he knew an young adult league could be successful, but he also points out that the community has a burgeoning international population as well with many nationalities being represented. Soccer has long served as a symbol of international diplomacy, as it is a common language of sorts. After all, it is the world’s most popular sport.

Minich said originally ideas were kicked around for starting a youth program and putting together clinics, but he soon realized that there was more of a demand for a league of young adult players, who were passionate about the sport and enjoy the physical activity.

“The response was great,” Minich said.

Between Minich, Carillo and Abarca they quickly contacted a lot of interested players and those contacted even more. By the fall of 2013 the league was aligned  with 11 teams — nine from Americus, two from Buena Vista, one team of Americus-Sumter high school students and one of Georgia Southwestern State University students.

Meetings were held to set the ground rules for the league. Due to conflicts with other recreation department sports, the Americus Adult Soccer League played for the first four weeks at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains; then the league was able to rent the recreation department field on Friday and Sunday afternoons.

Minich said it is truly a festive environment each time matches are played and often there is authentic Mexican food to be enjoyed. Besides the good time, another great success of the league for Minich is the opportunity for adults to participate in a physical activity besides just running or spending time in the gym. The only thing that comes close is the local church softball league, after which the soccer league was modeled, according to Minich.

“We hired refs and kept everything professional. From there, everything flourished. Each team played 10 games between November and the end of February and there are plans to organize a spring season with the possible addition of a few more teams,” he said.

In League action Sunday the Guerreros team took the third-place trophy over the Jaguares  in playoff matches while the championship match saw a hard-fought contest between “Barcelona” and “Brazil.” The match went to double overtime before Barcelona took the win for championship.

“Soccer is a terrific game,” Minich says, adding that there is a reason it is the most popular game in the world. “It’s not as popular in South Georgia, but that’s fine,” he said, “but I think it’s growing and the more people who turn on to the game are going to love it.”

Minich says he saw the growth in popularity from his work at SCPRD. The perception of soccer in this area of the state has changed a lot.

Minich says he likes all sports, but he shared what he loves about soccer.

“Eleven people come together to share one common goal and it takes patience, work ethic and decision making and you have to remain completely engaged,” he said. “It’s a beautiful game.”

For more information on the Americus Soccer League visit their Facebook page where messages can be left for league and/or team officials.

Represented by multiple nations, including Korea, Germany, Africa, Argentina, France, Mexico and the United States) the following teams competed in the inaugural season of the Americus Adult Soccer League: Brazil, Jaguares, Xelaju, Barcelona, Chupacabra, Buena Vista, GSW, Guerreros, AHS, Veteranos and Anejos.

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