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Ambassadors in Sport makes 10th appearance in Manteca
Soccer coach John Boggs (center, right) stands with fellow coaches as they fire up campers during the Ambassadors in Sport soccer camp at Northgate Park. - photo by HIME ROMERO

East Union High 2013 graduate Kayla Lamont was one of four assistant coaches from Manteca present during this week’s Ambassadors in Sport soccer camp sponsored by Crossroads Grace Community Church and hosted by Northgate Park.

All the other coaches, though, were from all over the world.

The 10th annual AIS Christian-based soccer camp began Tuesday and culminates Saturday and also featured Lamont’s twin sister Kianna, who also volunteered her time to help coach. The other two assistant coaches were from Modesto.

“This was my first year doing this,” said Kayla, a three-sport athlete during her tenure at EU. “It’s a different experience. And Kianna was already with it, so they just welcomed me to be an assistant coach.

“It’s good to connect with the kids and guide them not just in soccer, but with knowing the Lord and doing these Bible studies. It’s really cool to get to know other cultures and everything about their countries.”

The 50 youth who participated in the camp not only received instruction in the basic skills and fundamentals of soccer — passing, shooting, dribbling and gathering the ball — but they also received a dose of religious teaching as well.

The soccer camp used religious lessons as a main a focus for the youth. AIS began in 1990 in England with the aim of connecting with churches and Christian groups to use soccer for ministry.

This was one of the last stops of a six-week U.S. tour by AIS, whose main headquarters are in Cleveland but has offices all over the world. The tour includes stops on the East Coast to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Camps were also hosted in Cleveland and Sacramento (Woodland).

“A couple of the coaches are from Cleveland and one is from New Mexico,” said Jim Todd, former EU head varsity girls soccer coach and pastor at Crossroads. “Those were just the U.S. coaches. There was a guy from Wales -- that’s a part of the United Kingdom – Scotland and Brazil. Another guy was from Romania. Nine are from outside of the United States.”

The Romanian, 34-year old David Hiriczko, visited Manteca for the first time. Hiriczko is a physical education teacher in Romania and was here for the summer tour despite having a wife and three kids back at home.

John Boggs was born in Haiti and now resides in Cleveland. Boggs is in charge of the AIS special projects and all international tours. He was also one of the 13 players representing the coaches during a friendly match at Dino Cunial Field on Thursday night against a local club team, as was Hiriczko.

“The whole angle is we’re using Christianity for ministry,” Todd said. “Steve Scotland arranged a competitive local team, and usually the game is really close. We’re going to line the fields, turn on the lights and have referees.”

Most of the youth who participated in camp were not only from Manteca. There were some from Dublin and Salida, ‘and a few other cities around here,’ according to Todd.

The soccer camp concludes on Saturday when the AIS leaders, along with volunteers from Crossroads and other local soccer organizations, will attempt to turn Northgate Park into the World Cup.

The camp will conclude with competitive matches for every age group in a colorful atmosphere.

Ambassadors in Sport does more than just summer soccer camps and clinics, however.

Their work extends through the prison and school ministries, men’s and women’s teams, international tours and major sporting events such as the World Cup and Olympic outreach.

“Bringing hope through football is one of their mottos,” said Todd, noting that soccer is referred to as football overseas. “They even go into prisons and are allowed access because of the game. And then that leads to the element of faith.”