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Global game descends on Manteca

Camp combines gospel, sports & international coaches

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Global game descends on Manteca

Ambassadors In Sport coach Johnny Stewart of Ireland played a game of humans and aliens during a previous sports camp at Northgate Park.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

POSTED July 18, 2013 1:03 a.m.

Over the years, Manteca has established itself as a hotbed for soccer, attracting teams and talent from all over the country.

In less than two weeks, The Family City will welcome the rest of the world to its fields for the annual Ambassadors In Sports soccer camp.

It promises to be a cultural explosion, with coaches from all corners of the globe, including parts of the United States, Europe and South America guiding a five-day introductory course.

“It’s like the world’s colliding here,” said Jim Todd, former East Union girls’ soccer coach and the pastor at Crossroads Community Church.

Crossroads is sponsoring the week-long event at Northgate Park from July 30-Aug. 3.

Registration is still open    and will remain open through the first day of camp.

Ambassadors In Sports began 22 years ago with a small team of coaches from England. That network has grown to include more than a thousand trained volunteers from all corners of the map, each commissioned with inspiring hope in others through The Beautiful Game and gospel.

Young soccer players, both in age and experience, are encouraged to register – though advanced players are welcome, too.  Campers will be introduced to the basics of the game, from passing, shooting, dribbling and collecting the ball.

On Thursday, the coaches will take part in a friendly soccer match against a local club team.

On Saturday, Ambassadors In Sport, with the help of volunteers from Crossroads and local soccer organizations, will turn Northgate Park into the World Cup. Campers will be separated into teams and compete against one another in various games.

All the while, the coaches will be encouraged to participate in services at Crossroads. The coaching staff will be comprised of 13 former or current players, including:

• John Boggs, a 47-year-old who grew in Haiti and graduated with an English degree from Bryan College in Tennessee;

• Connor Boggs, a first-time Ambassador In Sport coach, who hails from Asheville, North Carolina;

• Pedro Abdala, a 20-year-old Brazilian studying law at his local university;

• Samuel David Clarke, a 24-year-old from the Yorkshire of the United Kingdom. Clarke plays the game casually, he says, unless it’s a “proper” game;

• Dalton Cortese, 19, who plays competitively with the Northern SC Strikers in New Mexico;

• Katie Finch, 29, a decorated player from Scotland who played for the Aberdeen Ladies in the Premier League;

• Jon Forsythe, 19, a member of the Moody Bible Institute’s 2012 NCCAA Division II national champion;

• David Hiriczko, 34, was a professional free-fighter for 14 years before settling down to raise three small children with his wife;

• Kieran Joseph, 18, visits from Wales, where he’s played for professional youth academies and currently competes with Welsh Universities;

• Nicole Krejci is a 17-year-old senior from Ohio and a former camper with the Ambassadors program. She’s verbally committed to play at the University of South Carolina Upstate;

• Ramon Riemersma, 24, is taking a short break from his studies at a university in Holland;

• Mark Scott, 21, plays soccer for Belfast Bible College, but has a special talent playing the drums in his church band;

• Gerwin van Beek, 26, was raised on a small dairy in Holland, where he played youth soccer for nine years. He is making his first visit to the United States.

“We’ve had coaches from all over the place. Brazil, Scotland and England have produced the most coaches,” Todd said. “They know the game and there’s no disputing that. It’s fascinating to see our local kids with the international coaches. It’s fun meeting with them and hanging out with them.”

The fascination goes both ways. Todd says many of the coaches come to Manteca’s camp with hopes of seeing Northern California’s unique cities and attractions.

On the itinerary is a trip to San Francisco and a photo op near the Golden Gate Bridge. Todd had hoped to squeeze in a trip to Yosemite National Park but “a mountain is a mountain anywhere you go, I guess.”

“Some of them acquire a taste for In-N-Out,” he quipped, “because they’ll probably eat there two or three times. ... It’s fun to see them just take in the American culture.”

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