On the ball

🕔Jun 07, 2006

I heard giggling and a soccer ball shot out from behind a door, closely followed by a trio of girls. “Aren’t you the girls who are going to Germany to play soccer?” I asked. “Yes,” they chorused, barely able to contain the huge grins which spread across their faces.

Red-haired Melissa Scobie dreams of making it big. She plays defending center mid. She expertly flips the soccer ball up on the tips of her toes and, as she catches it in her arms, she says, “Europe has way better soccer than Canada.”

“It’s the chance of a lifetime,” says fifteen-year-old Alyssa Jarvis. She plays attacking center mid for the team.

“We’re the first provincial team to go to Europe. We get to play one of the best teams in the world,” says Catherine Sprangers, whose position on the team is left defense.

All three are members of the Under-15 Select Girls’ Soccer Team in Prince George. This June they will get a taste of their dreams when the team goes to Regansburg, Germany as part of an international soccer exchange.

“We will be meeting teams from all over Germany and will benefit from working with some of Germany’s top soccer coaches,” says Iain Flannagan, one of the girls coaches.

Each girl has to work for her spot on the team. Most of them have been playing soccer since they were five. Their enthusiasm for the game is evident by the confidence they show in handling the soccer ball, as well as their willingness to undergo a rigorous, four-month training program. “They have two practices a week and play two games every week,” says their coach.

“The girls have to be mentally as well as physically prepared,” says Virginia Sprangers, team manager. Having supportive parents goes a long way in helping each girl attain her goal.

When not going to school or practicing, the girls are kept busy raising money to help offset their costs. Apart from the usual fundraisers like car washes, chocolate sales and bottle drives, they have received support from the Canadian Soccer Association. The association has donated tickets to the Canada vs Netherlands series national soccer games, held this spring in Vancouver and Victoria.

They were also given two soccer balls signed by the Canadian National Team. These items will be auctioned off.

Helping the team raise money is an opportunity for local businesses to get involved and give something back to the community. “For instance,” says Sprangers, “a business could sponsor a player for $500 and get their business name on the player’s jersey.”

The girls will be in Regansburg from June 2-June 12 and they will play five games.
Romeo Jozak, technical Director for the Prince George Soccer Association has assisted the U15 Select Girls Soccer Team and their families in creating this international soccer exchange with Germany and the Regansberg Soccer league. The team consists of 18 girls, their family members and three coaches.

While in Regansberg the girls will be billeted with local families. Their experience of German culture will be more immediate this way, and they will a have a chance to form close relationships with their host families which could last a lifetime.

The Prince George coaches will have the chance to work alongside Regansburg coach Heinrich Lippert, and others from Byron, Poonig and Munich, exchanging coaching ideas and techniques.

In addition to playing soccer the girls will visit the FIFA World Cup Soccer stadium, where the World Cup kicks off in Munich this June 2006. The hosting families have organized other activities such as touring local historical sights.

In August 2007, the Prince George team will return the hosting favour. “We’re looking forward to having them here in Prince George to play other BC teams and experience our beautiful Province,” says Sprangers.

The girls will give the German team brochures and other information about Prince George and BC which will help them with their planning when they come to Canada in 2007.
Plans are already underway for a host dinner for the visiting team and their families, to be held along with the local German Consulate here in Prince George.

It’s drizzling the next time I meet them outside on the soccer pitch. The grass is still brown and June seems a long way off. Cries of “cool” and “right on” emit from their smiling mouths when I tell them I’ve come to take photographs. Obligingly the girls kick the ball to each other, controlling it by hitting it with their knees as well as their heads.

The coach calls them over. I show the girls the photos I took of them while he gives them a pep talk. As the girls run off, laughing and joking, for a pre-practice run around the field I tuck my camera back into my pocket. I can see they are a close-knit group and I wish them every success in Germany this June.