Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, July 8, 1999

A life-long love affair
with soccer

TOUCHING all bases. And if you want to do that, I guess you have to include soccer, too, if you watch sports.

Don't get me wrong. I like soccer.

I figure all that running around has to be good for you, especially if you're young or the type who can't stand still. And, like pitching duels in baseball, you don't have to be a whiz in math to keep track of the score.

Soccer's also a sport that teaches you patience. It's the ultimate waiting game, waiting for a score. You also need to pay attention.

I still remember the time Jim Becker, a former Star-Bulletin colleague, took me to a soccer match at Crystal Palace.

No, it's not a hostess bar. It's the stadium where London's soccer team plays its home games. Crystal Palace used to be a Division One team in those days.

Anyway, Crystal Palace was playing the Tottenham Hotspurs that day. The Tottenham fans came by train hours early to get warmed up in the numerous pubs surrounding the stadium before the game started.

There was a constant din in the stadium. The noise was like that you would hear before kickoff in an American football game.

Really, never has there been so much roaring for so little scoring. The Tots won, 1-0. All the more the pity because Becker and I turned away for a moment and missed the only goal of the game.

SEVERAL years later, I did actually get to see some goals scored, watching Team Hawaii of the North American Soccer League. But the lure that got me to go out to Aloha Stadium wasn't the game, but the chance to meet the great Pele.

Locally, we have a Mr. Soccer of sorts. He's Jack Sullivan, who has been associated with AYSO since 1974.

I never thought I'd ever say this, but I'm envious of Sullivan. He'll be attending the Women's World Cup final between America and China on Saturday at the sold-out Rose Bowl. He and Bill Clinton and some 90,000 others.

"I bought the tickets two years ago," Sullivan said, "because I knew who would be in it - U.S. and China."

And to give an added example of his prescience, Sullivan knows how the match will play out.

"It'll be 1-1 at the half and U.S. will win, 2-1."

OK, maybe that isn't saying much. After all, you can't really go wrong predicting a 2-1 score in soccer.

But Sullivan says that the American women will score in the first 10 minutes, and China will come back to tie it five minutes later.

EVEN if the U.S. team wins - and it'll be a big thrill for him - Sullivan says nothing can ever beat the time he watched USA beat China for the women's gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Athens. Athens, Georgia, that is.

"That was the first time women were allowed in the Olympics in my sport."

Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy - today's celebrated soccer yo mamas - were on that winning U.S. team and hope to add the World Cup title as well.

Women's soccer has come a long way, indeed.

So has youth soccer locally, with more than 33,000 kids participating, according to Sullivan. He still remembers the time his fledgling AYSO team practiced at the Koolau Boys' Home. As part of the agreement to use the field, the coaches had to teach the incarcerated youngsters the sport.

In the middle of the game, three of the boys took off their jerseys and escaped over the fence.

"We had to cancel the game. But at least they didn't steal my jerseys," Sullivan said.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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