Gamba Osaka defender Satoshi Yamaguchi kicked the ball around during a practice session yesterday at Aloha Stadium.
Stars headline Pan-Pac soccer
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Three young leagues square off for Pan-Pacific dominance today.
First round today: Gamba Osaka vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 6 p.m.; Houston Dynamo vs. Sydney FC, 8:30 p.m.; Aloha Stadium
Representatives from Major League Soccer, Japan's J-League, and Australia's Hyundai A-League match up in a doubleheader at Aloha Stadium in the inaugural Pan-Pacific Championships. None of the three are older than 15 years.
From local star Brian Ching of the Houston Dynamo to international icons David Beckham and Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy, some of the highest-profile athletes in the game will decide which teams advance to play in Saturday's championship game.
Beckham affirmed his team's commitment to giving maximum effort in the exhibition games.
"A non-league game, a Premiership game, an MLS game, or a friendly game like we've got ... that's what we do, and that's what we're here for," he said. "We're here for people to see what we can do on the field."
The Galaxy and Gamba Osaka play at 6 p.m., and the Dynamo and Sydney FC compete at 8:30 p.m.
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Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham showed up in Waianae yesterday to play in a scrimmage.
More is on the line than just the title-game berths in the inaugural Pan-Pacific Championships first round today.
Soccer United Marketing, which coordinated the four-team tournament between Major League Soccer, the J-League (Japan), and the Hyundai A-League (Australia), is hopeful for a significant turnout at Aloha Stadium this week, one that will cement the event's place to possibly become an annual arrangement in Hawaii.
"Our focus is long-term," said Will Wilson, executive vice president of SUM. "We want this to be a growing event, a long-term event, an event that involves more leagues from other countries. We've already had significant interest from other countries."
Today's doubleheader between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Gamba Osaka at 6 p.m., and the Houston Dynamo and Sydney FC at 8:30 p.m., will be televised on ESPN Classic around the world. The winners and losers face off Saturday in the championship and third-place games.
"It's something that's going to continue to grow in global relevance," Wilson continued. "The images coming out of Hawaii are going to go around the world. People are interested in seeing what's happening here in Hawaii. ... Hawaii should be proud of this event."
SUM wouldn't release an official tickets issued figure for the 50,000-seat stadium as of yesterday, but a spokesman said there are plenty of tickets remaining, and a large walk-up crowd is expected. Prices range from between $10 and $60.
The four teams are in various stages of their seasons. Both MLS teams and Gamba Osaka are amid training in their preseason, while Sydney FC just lost in the A-League semifinals.
Players and coaches from each all voiced confidence in the potential of the tournament Monday.
"I speak for our team by saying we're really excited in getting on with this tournament," said Dynamo forward Brian Ching, a Haleiwa native and Hawaii's first MLS player. "It is early in our preseason but we're a team that has been together for the past six or seven years. We consider ourselves probably one of the best franchises in the league -- we're really looking forward to stepping on the field and showing Sydney our level of play."
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said that while his team wasn't quite "match-fit" yet, his team would be giving maximum effort.
Beckham's coach, Ruud Gullit, had some reservations about playing on the stadium's FieldTurf artificial surface, as opposed to standard pitch.
"We have to deal with it, but that's why we took a large squad with us, so that everybody has a chance to play on it," Gullit said.
Sydney coach John Kosmina, on the other hand, thought the extra contests were a boon because the A-League doesn't play enough games.
For Gamba coach Akira Nishino, it is "unheard of" for a team to leave for such a tournament in the midst of training, but he jumped at the chance to better represent future J-League teams.
Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona, a soccer coach and father of soccer players, urged fans to attend.
"For us here in Hawaii, this is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "You're going to see some players that you don't get to see close up and in person in any game."