Guam shoots on Goooal!
Soccer is arguably the most popular sport in the world, and it continues to extend its reach to the masses. This summer’s World Cup had folks glued to their televisions, even soccer novices. Across the United States, youth soccer leagues continue to pop up, challenging the popularity of baseball, basketball and American football.
On Guam, soccer surpasses all other sports in terms of participation. Day and night, kids of all ages can be seen in backyards kicking the ball or on the numerous soccer fields that dot the landscape.
“I believe soccer is the most popular sport on Guam because of the multitude of opportunities for the community to get involved in the sport,” said Jill Espiritu, the media and marketing officer for the Guam Football Association. “Whether you want to play on a team, coach a team, officiate matches, or work in an administrative capacity, there is an opportunity for the entire community - men, women, and children.”
Although the history of soccer on Guam is short compared to baseball, basketball and American football, the island gets a big kick out of sport, with an assist from the GFA. Founded in 1975 and now 5,000 members strong, the GFA manages 10 different leagues for children and adults.
There are more 2,000 youth players in the GFA who participate in the Robbie Webber Youth Soccer League, which has two seasons, according to Espiritu.
“I’ve been playing in the All-Girls and youth leagues since I was in kindergarten – three seasons each,” said 8-year-old Maya Camou, 8. “For the All-Girls league, I enjoy it a lot because it’s fun and I really like playing soccer. The youth league is harder, but I’m still excited to start playing again. My grandpa and my mom wanted me to join soccer and after I first started playing, I knew I really liked it. I hope more kids join soccer, too.”
But soccer on Guam isn’t all kids play.
Guam is currently a full member of FIFA, Asian Football Confederation and the East Asian Football Federation. The Guam’s men’s national team, Matao, achieved its highest FIFA Coca-Cola World Ranking earlier this year at 160th. The team played on Guam in the EAFF East Asian Cup preliminary competition in July, winning twice and earning draw to qualify for the semifinal round to be held in Chinese Taipei in November. The team will compete against Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, and Democratic People’s Republic Korea.
Matao is comprised of professionals who play abroad, college players and even some who participate in Guam’s local leagues. The team typically plays in a few tournaments or friendly matches against other FIFA member nations each year. Matao will participate in qualification rounds for the 2018 FIFA World Cup next year.
The women’s national team, Masakada, continues to improve and is currently ranked No. 85 in the world. Masakåda will also play in November in Chinese Taipei at the EAFF Women’s East Asian Cup semifinal round.
“Overall, the sport of football in Guam is all-inclusive, with an opportunity for almost everyone to get involved. Succeeding in the sport doesn’t necessarily require height or build advantages,” said Espiritu. “Also, opportunities are equally available for both male and female athletes - co-ed play is featured in the youth leagues through to the U17 age division.
“Guam also trains boys’ and girls’ youth national teams at the U14, U16, and U19 age groups. A growing number of students in Guam have earned scholarships to play soccer at U.S. universities with assistance from GFA’s technical department, thus saving their parents thousands of dollars for a higher education,” she said. “No other sport on Guam has afforded its young athletes as many opportunities as soccer has to succeed in life through the sport.”
Fall season of the Robbie Webber Youth Soccer League kicked off in September. Two military teams, The Lil’ Bombers from Andersen Air Force Base and MWR Barracudas from the Naval Base Guam, are participating. Lil’ Bombers has teams in the U6, U8, U10A, U10B, and U12A divisions. MWR Barracudas has teams in the U6, U8, U10A, and U10B divisions. You can check the league schedules at www.guamfa.com/all-leagues-youth-fall-results.
“I’m excited that the youth league started again. It’s so much fun – I look forward to playing soccer again with my friends this season,” said Kyle Potter, 11. “If we win, it’s great, but even if we don’t, it’s about playing the game and learning.”
Youth clubs are always looking for coaches and referees, according to Espiritu. GFA offers beginner referee courses about a month before the start of the youth leagues.
Season off to a great start
By Jill Espiritu, Guam Football Association
When the Supersonics’ Cohen Terlaje scored a goal during a U10 match of the Triple J Auto Group Robbie Webber Youth Soccer League on Sept. 27, the eight-year-old instinctively leaped in excitement and continued to smile as he sprinted back to the centerline ready for the next play.
“I like soccer because it is a lot of fun,” said Terlaje, who began playing soccer when he was five years old. “My favorite part of the sport is scoring goals.”
Terlaje is one of three players on the Supersonics roster with previous soccer-playing experience. The young team – new to the youth league this season – was organized by head coach Mike Peredo, according assistant coach Edward Blas.
“One of the parents wanted to get their child more involved in sports, so we decided to form a team in the youth soccer league,” Blas said. “So far, it’s been good – the kids are having a lot of fun. In the beginning, some of them were hesitant to get out on the field, but now, everyone wants to go out and play.”
Over 100 teams in six age divisions continued matches in Week 3 of the youth league at the Guam Football Association National Training Center on Oct. 4.