Sports

Kids provided an edu-cation

Even if someone doesn’t know the first thing about soccer they’ve still likely heard the name Pele.

Jonas Eduardo Amercio, aka Edu, doesn’t just know the name — he played alongside the world’s most recognizable soccer player for 13 years in Brazil, including three straight World Cup teams and a world title in 1970.

“Besides being a great player he is also a great friend,” Edu said in Portuguese through interpreter Paul Mendes.

Edu, who at 16 years old was the youngest player ever to take the field in a World Cup game, was in Coupeville this past week as a part of the 33rd annual Northwest Soccer Camp at Fort Casey.

It is the seventh straight year he’s made the journey from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Whidbey Island.

“He was doing a small clinic in Seattle and I told him about the camp here on Whidbey Island,” said Mendes, a part-time Coupeville resident and boys head soccer coach at Newport High School in Bellevue. “The next year he visited for a week, it was a huge success and he’s been coming back every since.”

What started out as a one week annual visit to Fort Casey has evolved into three weeks every summer. This past week was the annual “Edu Week,” where the focus lies heavily on the Brazilian star’s skills.

“The weeks that he’s here have become very popular with the kids,” Mendes said. “He works well with all age groups, but the younger ones really take well to him.”

And it’s easy to see why.

Through two hours of footwork, heading and passing demonstrations and drills on Thursday afternoon, a bright smile stayed constant on Edu’s face. As he demonstrated each drill, he kept up energy up by encouraging a chant of “Edu” along with a rhythmic clap.

Asked how he could always be so happy, he was quick to answer in English.

“When I play professional, it’s the same, I play like this,” he said. “I love soccer.”

Over the years Edu has received several opportunities to coach professionally in Brazil, but has continued to decline.

He said it’s mainly because he enjoys what he’s doing right now, but was also quick to point out that coaching professional soccer in his home country is a little more serious business.

“In Brazil when you’re a professional coach there’s not a lot of security,” he said. “You could lose two games and you could be out.”

Coaching youth appears to be a wise choice for the Brazilian, however, as the kids appear naturally drawn to his entertaining antics and care-free smile.

“He’s amazing,” Conner Smith of Spokane said. “He’s got really good tricks and he’s really coordinated, plus he’s really funny.”

Edu will soon take his bicycle kicks and trick passes back to Brazil, but the Northwest Soccer Camp continues through Aug. 19 at Fort Casey with week long sessions.

The camp, which is coordinated by Seattle Pacific University coach Cliff McGrath, maxes out at about 300 participants per week. This past week’s camp had kids from all over the country and instructors from all over the world, including the captain of the Mexican women’s national team, Monica Gonzales.

Other coaches came from as far away as Jamaica, England and Columbia, while players also traveled in from all over the United States.

“To me it’s always crazy that kids are going to Whidbey Island to receive this international experience,” camp director Mark Drovdahl said.

For more information on camp availability log on to www.nwsoccer.org, or call 206-281-2904.

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