By Dave Kiffer
October 16, 2006
Micro-soccer is beginning soccer for 5-6 year olds. The kids just run up and down the field. No one keeps score. Everybody falls down a lot. It is great fun.
It also means that the parents stand around in the rain and watch the "game." Charlotte - who normally works on Saturdays, learned how important it is to watch the game when she attended the first match.
"Mommy," Liam protested after the game. "You didn't watch me. You just talked to your friends."
Artist Petar Pismestrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria
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"Nice kick, Sammy!"
"Good stop, Maurie!"
"Go after the ball, Liam!"
Of course, it was not a great help. As far as I could tell, all my yelling did nothing to alter the uncontrolled running up and down or stop the opponents balls from rolling into our teams goal more often than "Team Mustard" seemed to score.
"Team Mustard" was the name that one of the other parents. Elmo Guerrero, suggested. I even thought that we could stand on the sidelines and wave little mustard condiment packages in celebration.
The kids didn't like that name. They either called themselves the "yellow birds" or the "blue flames." I can't remember which. They had really cool yellow uniforms with blue flames on them. Team names were as irrelevant as keeping score in micro-soccer, although there were some games in which Liam seemed to know just what the final score was anyway.
"That was fun," I would say as we drove home.
"We lost," he would reply from the back seat.
"What do you mean?" I would answer back. "We don't keep score in soccer."
"Dad," he would say with a five-and-a-half -year-old's finely honed exasperation that his father is a doofus.
"The other team had seven."
"We only had three (actually he still pronounces it as fwee!)."
Well, yes, that was the final score. But who's counting?
One day after a hard fought, well played (many kids fell down and got their uniforms really, really, really muddy!) game, Liam asked one of those unanswerable questions.
"Daddy, how come the other teams always score more than us?"
I tried to explain that his team was just starting out and that some of the other teams had players who were in micro-soccer the year before and that they were more advanced and a little bigger.
"But how come we always lose?"
That led me to tell him the story of one of my old Church league basketball teams that lost every game one year and then came back to win all of its games the next and win the championship.
"Will we win the championship this year, Daddy?"
Uh, no, Liam.
He then started talking about the big "trophy" that he was going to get when his team won the championship. Nice going, Dad.
At least it is neat that Liam is interested in soccer. Now we have special soccer-related books to read at bedtime and soccer videos to watch (the Backyardigan's "Pass-Shoot-Score" is a particular favorite of the Pre-Pele set.).
All this soccer is a bit hard on sports loving Dad because I have always felt that watching soccer was akin to watching grass grow. I appreciate the fact that billions of people the world over love soccer, but I do not.
I can understand why soccer hooligans riot after matches. I'd be angry too that I spent good Euros on a seat to an event which absolutely nothing happened for 90 minutes. But I digress.
Naturally, Liam's games seemed to coincide with one of the wetter months of the year that led to a lot of parents standing around getting wet.
When I wasn't standing around shouting encouragement to the players, I was scheming about an indoor soccer/football/baseball stadium. If we figured out a way to channel all this excess rainwater into a pipeline south, we could afford it!
So how did Liam do in micro-soccer? He didn't score any goals, but I think he had a couple of assists, although it is hard to tell from the "scrums" that happen near the goal sometimes.
At one point in the season, he developed the odd habit of jumping up in the air when the ball rolled to him and letting it pass under his legs. Kind of like those gnarly fake spikes you see in volleyball sometimes. But probably a little less useful in soccer.
He got his uniform really muddy at times. And any five year old will tell you that's a great thing. In Little League eons ago, we used to rub some dirt on uniforms if we didn't play because we didn't want our moms to know that we sat on the bench the whole game.
But without a doubt, Liam's crowning achievement happened in his second game.
It was really wet and muddy and micro-soccer players were slipping and sliding all over place. Many kids fell down and - natch - they took the opportunity to get a little extra attention by either crying or hobbling off the field.
Late in the "game" Liam was chasing the ball toward the other team's goal and he and a player from the other team collided and went sprawling face first into the mud. The other kid started crying.
But Liam hopped up, looked down as his mud covered uniform and immediately jumped into the air and started waving his arms. Then he ran around the goal with the biggest smile I've ever seen on his face. I'd never seen a victory dance for a "face plant" before.
Sure, sure he didn't score a goal on the play. But it really didn't matter.
Contact Dave at email@example.com
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