Just For Kicks
THE experiences shared by the Honolulu Bulls Soccer Club Red Under 15 team will be remembered for a long time.
Coached for five years by Jeff Carlson and Ray Shiraishi, the Bulls began the summer with their best finish ever at the Snickers Regionals, losing in the semifinals to Arizona.
"I think the boys all felt we should have won that game and got into the final," Carlson said.
"We were looking past Arizona a little. They caught us by surprise. We lost the frustrating game, 3-1," said David Semenza, a goalkeeper from Punahou.
The disappointment evaporated by the time the Bulls landed in Frankfurt, Germany, after 10 hours of flight time from San Francisco.
The trip had been a dream of Carson and Shiraishi for some time. Bulls director of coaching Phil Neddo put them in touch with a company he had worked with before.
"They set up a series of games and an itinerary that was pretty cool," Carlson said.
The Bulls played three friendly matches in Germany, winning two and coming back from a 4-2 deficit to tie the third one.
"The friendlies showed us we could be competitive in the Euro Youth Cup 2000 held in Holland. We didn't know if we would show up and get rocked," said Carlson.
The Bulls beat Slovenia, 1-0, and Holland, 4-0, tied a team from Indiana, blanked Belgium, 4-0, in the semifinal round and beat Spain, 3-2 on penalty kicks in the title match after a 1-1 tie in regulation.
Brandon Tario, a midfielder from Kamehameha, scored on a 30-yard shot in regulation and Scott Shiraishi, a midfielder from Iolani, notched the winning penalty kick.
"The age bracket we played in was under-17 so we went up against some big boys," Carlson said. "But we proved we could play with them.
"What I'd like to do is encourage other people to do this. It was a big undertaking, but it was worth it. With parents and siblings, we had a party of 45."
THE Bulls had time during their 12 days in Europe to play tourist. They visited castles, enjoyed a ferry boat ride on the Maas River, toured homes 1,000 years old and, of course, checked out the local soccer stores.
"The soccer stores were pretty slick. They had stuff you'd never find in a store here," Carlson said.
The team stayed in youth hostels. "One was good and one wasn't," Carlson said. "It only had one shower and that wasn't a popular thing.
"The facilities in Germany were tremendous. Everything was first class. The fields were the best I've ever seen."
At the get-together following the final, the Bulls were introduced to an international tradition. The Spanish players wanted to exchange shirts with the Hawaii players.
Only the Spaniards were still in their game jerseys while the Bulls had on aloha shirts provided by Hilo Hattie. The exchange was made. The Bulls opted to carry their souvenirs.
Corporate help also came from Hawaiian Host, Lion Coffee, Outrigger Hotels, Hawaiian Airlines, Sheraton and Pfizer.
The other team members are Satoshi Mitsuda, Punahou midfielder; Christopher Major, defender/midfielder from Mid-Pacific Institute; Duke Hashimoto, striker/midfielder from Iolani; Tim Picerno, Damien striker; Ryan Sakuda, Iolani defender; Max Anton, Kalaheo striker; Mitchell Fu, midfielder/defender from Pac-Five; Stephen Carlson, Punahou midfielder; Richard Higa, MPI defender, and Wade Nakagawa, John Garibaldi and Makena Carr, Punahou defenders.