British invasion strikes Oak Harbor

There are few places in the world where the love for the sport of soccer, or futbol, is more prevalent than the United Kingdom.

This past week local kids got a chance to experience just how serious the sport is taken half way around the world when the group U.K. International put on a camp at the Fort Nugent soccer fields.

“I just want to share how much I love futbol with the kids and it’s really nice to just see so many kids turning out wherever we go,” instructor David Evans said. “I absolutely love soccer, I live and breath it.”

The group, which consists of semi-professional and collegiate soccer players from the U.K., sends a variety of athletes to the United States at different times of the year to hold camps and clinics. With an office in Redlands, Calif., the majority of their teaching takes place on the West Coast. This is the first time, however, that they have come to Whidbey Island.

“I found out about these guys at a soccer fair in Seattle,” Whidbey Island Youth Soccer Association president Ed Morgan said. “I really like the information that they had.”

Morgan, who organized the week-long camp for youth and select soccer players, felt it was time an event like this returned to Oak Harbor in the summer.

“Since I’ve been here and some of the other people I’ve talked with have said we haven’t done a camp in quite a while here in Oak Harbor,” he said.

His choice was not only a popular decision to himself, but the kids as well.

Eleven-year-old Derek Thomas has participated in camps before, but none quite like this.

“This one’s a lot harder, but it’s a lot more fun,” he said.

Taking part in what the English players titled Wacky Wednesday, it was difficult to find many kids who weren’t having a good time. Encouraged to paint their faces, dye their hair, or wear whatever they please, it was apparent that not only were kids learning new skills, but having a blast in the process.

“It’s pretty fun and it teaches you a lot about soccer and will get you ready for all the soccer season’s ahead that you are going to play,” 12-year-old Nolan Tyler said.

While learning how to dribble, pass and shoot there was one thing the kids had to overcome.

“It’s hard to understand them,” Thomas said.

With a heavy brogue and fast pace speech, the players are well aware some of the kids might not always know what they’re talking about.

“You can usually tell because when you have the kids sit down in front of you, you talk and you usually see them staring off into space,” camp director and member of the Garforth Town team Andy Winn said.

Evans, who plays for the University of Hull, has a simple solution to the language barrier.

“I’ve had to learn to slow down what I’m saying and I try to think about what I’m going to say” he said.

Evans quite possibly adjusted his language too much for his liking during his one month spent in the states.

“I’m starting to say soccer, cleats and sidewalks and stuff like that,” he said. “When I get home my friends are going to have a field day with me.”

With the success of this year’s event, Morgan plans on bringing the same group back for another go-around next summer and hopefully generate a larger turnout of kids.

“I think we’ll do this one again next year from what I’ve seen this year,” he said. “I would like to see 100 or more kids, we’ve got almost 1,000 kids that play soccer on the island now in recreation and select.”

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