Soccer

Derek Clarkston/Kodiak Daily Mirror Kodiak High School’s Daniel Beltran, left, and a Kenai player go up for the ball during a soccer match on April 10 at Joe Floyd Track and Field.

I was going to devote this space to how awesome the Mariners are, but somewhere along the way they didn’t get the message and have stumbled out of the gate.

So instead, let’s talk about that six-letter curse word that starts with the letter S … Soccer.

It’s been well documented over the years, so it isn’t a surprise to you that I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for soccer.

Soccer to me is like trying to learn a foreign language, and trust me it is not pretty; simply ask my college Spanish teacher who gave me a pity pass.

The sport calls its jerseys a kit, its field a pitch and its games a match. Crazy, I know. That isn’t even the worst of it — what the heck is an offsides?

With all that said, I attended my first game … I mean match last weekend, and I didn’t hate it. Please forgive me, Gizmo.

When it was announced that Kodiak High School was going to field a varsity soccer team, I wasn’t thrilled. Another sport meant more work, and it was a sport I knew absolutely nothing about. Well, almost nothing. I have heard of Pelé.

After watching last week’s matches, my view on soccer changed. Seeing how excited the coaches and players were put a bit of excitement in this scribe.

The outcomes were not favorable, but that will change over time.

The teams will take some lumps, but that will only make the players stronger for the future. When Kodiak’s football team started, it was not a powerhouse, and it eventually ended up in three straight state championship games.

“I hope that this generates more interest, being able to have the home matches,” Kodiak boys’ coach Eric Waltenbaugh said. “I’ve already got other guys in the stands asking if they can come out.”

The main thing that I took away from the matches was that soccer is a physical sport, and here I thought soccer was just running and kicking a ball. Players hit the turf and it wasn’t because they were flopping. Several times play was stopped for a fallen player — I’ve been told that the clocks stops and stoppage time and is added to the end of the match.

“People that came out can see it is a very physical game. There are a lot of misconceptions about soccer,” said Tony Lumpkin, Kodiak boys’ assistant coach. “We have a bench full of wounded warriors over there, taking shoulders, elbows and knees.”

The most exciting part was when two players went up and headed the ball at the same time — I was surprised how often that happened in high school matches.

I was also surprised how players didn’t break a sweat, as each of them must have logged at least 10 miles during the 80-minute match. I would have gone through a handful of shirts and been bent over gasping for air.

“This isn’t cricket. This is European football,” Lumpkin said. “This is a very solid, courageous sport.”

Now excuse me as I head over to Amazon to purchase “Soccer for Dummies.”

Derek Clarkston is a staff writer at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227, ext. 625.

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