Soccer interest grows locally
By By J.W. Greenhill, Hartselle Enquirer
It's called soccer here, but everywhere else in the world it's called football.
But interest in the sport is growing even in the south, home of traditional American football collegiate powerhouses.
And the surprising defeat of the Mexican national soccer team by the American squad hasn't hurt a rising interest in the "world's sport."
For seven years, the local AYSO youth soccer association has sponsored a Major League Soccer clinic for local players during the summer months.
This year's instructor is Paul Hudson of New Castle, England. The 21-year-old coach is an aspiring British soccer player whose playing days were cut short by injury. He has turned his love of the game into a fulltime job. He coaches back home in England and is on his second tour with the MLS clinics in the U.S.
Hudson said he will spend seven months in the states before flying home in November, where he will resume coaching for the Middlesboro, England football club and the local football council in New Castle.
Hudson said he is in his second week in Alabama with the clinics after starting his tour in the New England states in April. Hudson said he prefers the southern leg of his tour, largely because the people are friendly and because he can see marked improvement among the players who attend the clinics.
"I like the South because the sport isn't as familiar here as in other areas in the states," Hudson said. "I like being able to see the vast improvement in some of the players from Monday to Friday. With better players it's harder to see improvement in a week, but I often have players who can't do a drill at first and by Friday they have it. It's nice to see that improvement in a short period."
Hudson said he has noticed the increased interest in soccer in the South, but realizes it still has a long way to go before it has near the following in America that it has in other areas of the world. He attributed the slow rise in popularity to the competition from other more traditional sports such as baseball and American football.
In England, Hudson said, soccer is the main sport, though other sports do provide breaks in the action. Other sports with followings are cricket and rugby, he said.
"Cricket is like baseball with a lot more rules and rugby is like American football without pads. You can't advance the ball with a (forward) pass. If you throw it, it has to travel backwards. To move it ahead you run it or kick it."
The Wimbledon tennis tournament captivates his country for two weeks out of the year, but doesn't draw much attention outside those two weeks, Hudson said.