The Endless Season – Girl’s Soccer – Why It Matters

You know how hot it was. You really had to WANT to be out there. And they did, on baking playing fields which sprawl for about half a mile to the west of the enormous indoor complex south of Rt 30 near Coatesville. Nearly a dozen games on this Tuesday evening, all but one are girl’s matches. A freshly-defeated team files off the field, their coach leading them up an embankment to a vacant spot, where he chides them for lackluster effort. «We have our next shot on Thursday,» he tells them. «Blow it off this way again and you can forget about getting those letters from the colleges. They’ll be using the backs of our programs to write down the names of other teams…»

United Sports Center, mid-February, 8pm:

Three of the indoor matches feature pre-teen girls’ teams. In the adjacent gym of Lightning-Fast, speed-training consultants to professional and amateur teams alike, a petite master-trainer named Shannon Grady, who is also a professional runner, is closing the pro shop when a woman walks in with her daughter, asking to sign her up for the next Speed Clinic. The girl is ten. I ask Shannon how young she’s gotten them. Eight.

Blame Title IX if you wish. NEWSWEEK did, but for other reasons, its venerable George Will echoing a lament that the initiative was a «train wreck» which had shoe-horned female athletes into college sports at the expense of established men’s programs. Boo-hoo! The Women’s World Cup 1999 triumph would have happened without Title IX, the threnody went on, because application of the 1972 legislation wasn’t codified and enforced for well over a decade, by which time women’s sports had already blossomed on their own. NEWSWEEK subsequently balanced their spin on Title IX, putting a dumbbell-curling Michelle Kwan on the cover, and in their «Gamma Girls» cover-story, correctly crediting Title IX for facilitating the emergence of well- adjusted teen girls who weren’t back-stabbing clique-queens or basket-cases. Go ahead, blame Title IX for the legions of Type A parents eyeing sports-scholarship dollars. But if you look a little deeper you’ll realize that this is a small price to pay for the bounties of the girls’ soccer-mania unfolding around us.

Like many of us of above a certain age, I can recall when soccer was an autumn boys’ sport, grudgingly included as a sidelight to football in private schools. You didn’t see «pick-up» soccer games they way you do with basketball or football. And girls played field hockey. As the growth of soccer in this country parallels the growth in women’s sports altogether, it seems as though a junction was unavoidable: no other sport offers all girls the same wide-open opportunities and possibilities.

ALYSSA- my niece, was far less outgoing than her twin older sisters. Small, but solid, she had no team-sport experience at age 10 when I enrolled her in Lionville Youth League soccer in an attempt to open her up. As she’d signed up late, her first time on the field they put her into a game. She didn’t know anything about positions and rules («What position are you playing?» I asked, just before she went in. «I’m a captain.» she said), but made up for it with such agility and aggressiveness the coach was near tears when I moved her on to a traveling team a year later.

She needn’t be big. Or tall. Or strong. She needn’t possess the natural gifts which separate the Mary Lou Rettons and Michelle Kwans from their peers early on. There are no expensive lessons, equipment, clothes or facilities. Give her a few yards of space and a ball, and she can stay busy for hours. It’s democratic, equal-opportunity as can be. Her sport’s not a «girls’ sport» or some other segregated subset, but a universal game, the biggest in the world. And now, like generations of boys before her, she has idols of her own. Some, like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, are icons, household names, drawing crowds wherever they go. Some, like Philadelphia’s own Heather Mitts and Lorrie Fair (both of whom are models), are gorgeous enough to be sex symbols. And tough? Oh yes, feminine, but at the same time, tough. Best of all, tough.

FELICIA- another tiny, shy girl, younger and far less physically-aggressive than Alyssa, this dark-eyed beauty had a tendency to shrink from soccer’s inevitable collisions. But she’s on the Phoenixville United team, coached by Stassi Theodoropoulos, himself something of a local legend in youth soccer training. A former professional club player in Europe, Stassi, 54, lives the sport and has an excess of excited energy which he spends in drilling several teams, including the girls’ varsity at the Villa Maria Academy. His work with the Phoenixville United grew them into a machine which thrashed most of their opponents, including some older girls’ teams. And Felicia? She’s grown too, her timidity a distant memory as she now tears into any opponent who comes her way.

There are the school teams. There are local clubs like the Lionville Youth Association and Phoenixville Area Soccer Club. There are bigger organizations like the Intercounty Soccer League and Philadelphia Area Girls’ Soccer (PAGS), which provide a framework for much of the league play throughout the region. All of this adds up to an impressive tapestry growing thicker by the week, and you don’t need to look very hard to see its evidence. New playing fields are popping up everywhere, and on any given weekend or evening you’ll likely to drive past a girls’ match.

Charlestown Park, Phoenixville, October:

Now with autumn, the fields get little rest. Be it Saturday or Sunday, before one game finishes, other teams arrive and are warming up at the sidelines. It’s the same way down the road at Lionville Youth Association. Not to mention at the schools. It’s the same way everywhere. And once the girls reach their teens many of them are playing for both their schools and their league teams. Even Stassi, with all his energy, can’t match that. With the main season in full swing, he’s had to hand off his beloved United team while he tends full-time to the Villa Maria girls. But they’re in good hands he assures me, and he’ll be keeping an eye on them all.

In an editorial I wrote for Women’s Physique World in 1999, I called our Women’s World Cup victory the finest day in women’s bodybuilding: «What else can you call it when the predominant image across America is an ecstatic young woman ripping off her shirt and flexing triumphantly before the entire world, and no one questions it?» A new paradigm of physical acceptability had been launched with these new heroines, I said, «and that’s significant to us because their prominence is forever tied to straining sweaty muddy-specked quadriceps, bone-crunching collision and all-out exertion. It’s raw muscle, shown in function. And thus needs no excuses. Lady-like? Ha! You tell Mia she’s not ladylike!»

Charlestown Park, Phoenixville, early April:

April? That’s right, it’s early April…a raw, rainy Saturday afternoon, but Stassi’s United girls are loving it. The rain and the mud are part of the fun. They’ve just shut out the other team four-zip, and despite the rain they happily kneel on a blanket, clowning for some post-game photos. It’s those other people huddling in the rain who don’t seem to be enjoying it. But that’s ok…they’re just grown-ups. What do they know about fun?

It can only get better. Our local heroines, the Philadelphia Charge, completed another stunning season last year where they lead the league until the final week. We head into this year’s Women’s World Cup with tens of thousands more devotees than were on-hand for the last, many destined for those same fields. They’ll be ramping up the volume on a new generation of superstars who ratchet the standards of physical possibility even higher. The young league-team girl amidst this growing swarm enjoys a freedom her mother only dreamed of, a future unfettered by antiquated notions of physical correctness, sports-conditioning and the limits of femininity. From the mud and dust of her local sward, through the scrapes and bruises of countless collisions, she can see. And she can soar.

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Who Is Superdry and What Is a Superdry Backpack?

The Superdry label is quickly becoming a very popular brand name in the U.S., with their classically casual and fashionably unique apparel. Based on a hybrid of laid-back, American retro combined with pseudo Japanese distinctive styling, the Superdry image is slaying the competition in the fashion industry and setting new trends along the way. Due to their enormous support in London, their reach has transcended beyond any limits thought possible by CEO Julian Dunkerton who initiated the label in conjunction with one of his own. Though their steady but rapid rise to supremacy is largely due to its U.K. roots, it was an American soccer player that has put them on the fast track to global stardom and they’ve played no games ever since.

History at a Glance

In late 2003, the Superdry concept, which served as a segue between Dunkerton’s first, earlier success, Cult Clothing, came into existence during a late night drinking binge with friend and colleague James Holder shortly after Dunkerton returned to London from Tokyo. He was freshly inspired by the rich culture of the orient and admired their strong attention to detail along with their distinct characteristic writing technique so much that he wanted to incorporate it right into his fashion practice. With assistance from Holder and his affluent corporation, their stores began to populate small university providences in England where they prospered almost immediately.

The Superdry brand along with 77Breed and Surf Co California comprise the major brand labels that serve as components to the SuperGroup, formed in 1985 with the founding of Cult Clothing by Julian Dunkerton. The SuperGroup has been ably backed by the success of the Superdry label which leads all brands in total retail though they conduct no formal advertising campaign. Dunkerton expressed his marketing strategies for the label very early on, unofficially commenting that retail pricing would be set at bare minimum thresholds in order to obtain profit for all clothing apparel as opposed to his competitors that drove-up prices to maximize gain. He wanted to present a high quality product at earnest, affordable prices to the public.

In the Media

The biggest moment yet for Superdry and those on their band wagon hit when world famous soccer player and pop icon David Beckham appeared wearing the immensely popular bestselling, «Osaka-6» designer T-shirt in his 2005 calendar. This intrigued Dunkerton enough to give Beckham the «Brad» leather jacket of which he was photographed wearing coming out of Mr. Chows in Beverly Hills one cool, crisp November evening. When the picture was featured in People magazine later that year, sales for the jacket sky rocketed.

The label wasted no time thereafter making the big screen’s «A» list as celebrities alike from Kate Moss to Jude law turned out in full support sporting an array of Superdry clothes and footwear. But as critics will have it, the celebrity make-over is nothing more than just window dressing to the real genius and actual draw to the meat of the label’s phenomenon, generated from the designer-in-chief himself, James Holder. Known to jokingly boast over scribbling his designs for the first few Osaka T-shirts on the back of bar beer-mats, Holder’s ethic in his designs enable him to transform everyday apparel and accessories like jeans, jackets, glasses, etc., into virtual, vintage classics.

The Superdry Backpack and Superdry Bags

As Superdry marches on into different avenues of fashion with regard to accessories such as sunglasses and jewelry, their line of sight has recently shifted to a unique variety of unisex bags and backpacks for travel and outdoor sport. Superdry has manufactured a functional balance of bags for an eclectic series of activities to suit anyone on the go. Here is a brief listing of some of the Superdry backpacks and bags:

• The Superdry rucksack collection combines the features of the rugged outdoorsmen type with the artsy flair of a high school student in terms of style and attitude, offering several types of traditional outdoor hiking packs with all the charm and genuine character to that of an experienced world traveler.

• The Superdry laptop bag and laptop pouch offers fashionable and safe alternatives for carrying your hardware to school or the office by several versatile and functional means. While one is completely weather proof, the other is made from beautiful full grain leather for a sharp, sleek appearance that is sure to make your colleagues jealous.

• The Gymnasium bag embodies all the traits and characteristics of the name and looks just as it sounds. Made from a polyester blend, it’s totally sweat proof and easy to maintain, while large enough to carry all your new muscles home from your last workout.

• The Motorbike Messenger bag is another reason I love these bags so much. Their names depict a replica of their function as this bag is right up the biker type’s alley with a single adjustable strap, leather belt buckle fasteners, and four large external pockets.

• The Weekender bag will send you out the door faster than you can say «vacation get away» with its fine leather trim and leather handle not to mention adjustable detachable strap. You can pack for the weekend and then some with its large internal compartment and three external compartments.

The Superdry backpack is making a real impact on the market as these bags are gaining in popularity every day. They craft a much larger line with the same genuine variety, and they are all worth a look as one is sure to fit your daily mold or routine. Don’t overlook these bags, as they are light weight and crafted from fine materials. The only caveat is that some of these bags can be a little pricey which is unusual for them. Nevertheless, if quality makes your list for consideration, then they have a backpack or bag for you. As Superdry continues to dominate their industry, you can rest assured that their product line is here to stay.

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Soccer Cleats Spikes – Metal Or Plastic

In football, stability is the most important element of great performance. There is always a need to ensure that the feet are firm underneath if at all you are to be able to throw, kick, catch or twist. This means that every player who values performance should invest in the best pair of soccer cleats. With a good pair, you can be sure of impressive traction in all kinds of fields and conditions. It is for this reason that there are specific soccer cleats designed for different grounds and making the right choice remains most paramount.

Apart from the way the spikes are arranged on the sole, it is also important to consider what they are made of. The two major choices you will find in the market when buying are plastic and metal spikes. You really cannot forget to take into consideration what kind of spikes your soccer cleats come with because they can have serious effects on your performance at the end of the day.

Metal spikes

Metallic spikes have for a long time featured on shoes designed for rugby, soccer, golf, baseball and football. They come in different shapes depending on the sport in question and they also come in varying patterns and lengths. Most are made from steel to offer durability and strength at the same time. Soccer cleats that have metal spikes will usually have them replaceable, so you can detach and replace when they bend or wear out without necessarily replacing your pair completely.

Even though they offer more durability and effectiveness, especially for turf sports, models featuring the metal spikes can be quite expensive. Because they dig deeper, they offer more stability compared to plastic spikes, but they can be loud and cumbersome when used on surfaces other than grass and dirt. They are suitable for adult players who are looking for a long time serving and excellent performance in competitive leagues.

Plastic spikes

These spikes are usually designed shorter in length to prevent breakage considering that plastic is prone to such especially with the pressures that come with the game. The shape of the spikes may vary from one sport to another and they are usually molded onto the soccer cleats soles. Because of their elastic nature, the plastic spikes easily bend when under pressure and may not be as durable as their metal counterparts. They are not replaceable and damages to them could mean replacing the entire pair. They are, however lightweight and quite comfortable even when walking on other surfaces. They are quiet and nondescript, but they are most suitable for younger players who may need to increase shoe size every once in a while.

When buying soccer cleats, it is important to check with your coach because most leagues ban metal spikes. This is because they tend to be more dangerous when it comes to injuries during play. If you are limited to plastic spikes, it would be nice to choose a plastic type that will not break as fast so you can still enjoy your pair for a long period of time.

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2011 Cricket World Cup

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 will be the 10th World Cup. Prior to the 2011 Cup, 9 tournaments have been organized by ICC. This time matches will be played between Feb 19, 2011 – April 2, 2011 in India, Bangladesh & Srilanka.

Australia have emerged winner on the most occasions – 4. Closely following is West Indies, who won the inaugural and the very next title. All the Indian Subcontinent teams – India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have won only once.

Australia won in 1987, 1999, 2003 and 2007. West Indies won on 1975 (the first WC) and 1979. India won in 1983, Pakistan won in 1992 and Sri Lanka won in 1996.

Cricket World Cup 2011 Venues includes: Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Mohali, Chennai, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Colombo, Dhaka, Chittagong. And new venues like Pallekelle and Hambantota – both being in Sri Lanka.

World Cup 2011 teams: This Time 14 Teams are participating, divided in two Groups as follows:

Group A – Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya.

Group B – India, South Africa, England, Bangladesh, West Indies, Netherlands and Ireland.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Schedule: Sat Feb 19 – 08:30 GMT – 14:00 IST – India v Bangladesh at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur

Sun Feb 20 – 04:00 – 09:30 – Kenya v New Zealand at MA Chidambaram Stadium Chepauk, Chennai

Sun Feb 20 – 09:00 GMT – 14:30 IST – Sri Lanka v Canada at Mahinda Rajapaksha International Cricket Stadium, Sooriyawewa, Hambantota

Mon Feb 21 – 09:00 – 14:30 – Australia v Zimbabwe at Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad

Tue Feb 22 – 09:00 GMT – 14:30 IST – England v Netherlands at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur

Wed Feb 23 – 09:00 – 14:30 – Kenya v Pakistan at Mahinda Rajapaksha International Cricket Stadium, Sooriyawewa, Hambantota

Thu Feb 24 – 09:00 – 14:30 – South Africa v West Indies at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi

Fri Feb 25 – 04:00 – 09:30 – Australia v New Zealand at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur

Fri Feb 25 – 08:30 – 14:00 – Bangladesh v Ireland at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur

Sat Feb 26 – 09:00 – 14:30 – Sri Lanka v Pakistan at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo

Sun Feb 27 – 09:00 – 14:30 – India v England at Eden Gardens, Kolkata Mon

Feb 28 – 04:00 – 09:30 – Canada v Zimbabwe at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground, Nagpur

Mon Feb 28 – 09:00 – 14:30 – Netherlands v West Indies at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi

Tue Mar 1 – 09:00 – 14:30 – Sri Lanka v Kenya at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo

Wed Mar 2 – 09:00 – 14:30 – England v Ireland at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore

Thu Mar 3 – 04:00 – 09:30 – Netherlands v South Africa at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh

Wed Mar 30 09:00 – 14:30 – Semi Final – TBC v TBC at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh

Sat Apr 2 09:00 GMT – 14:30 IST – Final – TBC v TBC at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

1999 FIFA World Youth Championship – Flying Eagles Wobble and Fumble At Home

In 1999, Nigeria won the right to host the 12th edition of the FIFA World Youth Championship. That was the year; the Flying Eagles were tagged «wobbling and fumbling». They started their World Cup campaign on home soil on a rather embarrassing note, with a 1-1 draw against lowly rated Costa Rica with Julius Aghahowa scoring the opener in the 20th minutes of play, before picking up their act against Germany, whom they defeated 2-0. The goals were scored by Ganiyu Shittu and Hashimu Garba in the 69th and 81st Minutes respectively.

Their last group match was against Paraguay, and they fumbled before a capacity crowd that had come to cheer them to victory. The game against Paraguay ended in favor of Paraguay 2-1 with Ganiyu Shittu scoring the consolation goal in the 38th Minutes of play. The Flying Eagles however managed to qualify for the round of 16 by the skin of their teeth.

In the round of 16, the Flying Eagles labored to secure a 1-1 draw against Ireland with the equalizing goal coming from diminutive striker Pius Ikedia in the 70th Minute. The game then went into penalty shoot out, and millions of Nigerians had their heart in their mouth throughout the duration of the kicks. It eventually went in the way of the Flying Eagles who scrapped through 5-3. Pius Ikedia, Gbenga Okunowo, John Aranka, Eddy Dombraye and Ganiyu Shittu all converted their spot kicks. Thomas Heary of the Republic of Ireland missed his spot kick to set a Quarter final pairing between Nigeria and Mali.

The Flying Eagles had their work cut out, as found the Malians too hot to handle in the quarterfinal clash played at the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium in Enugu eastern Nigeria. The Malians were so ruthless in the quarterfinal clash, that they inflicted a 3-1 defeat on the hapless Eagles who could not fly when it mattered most. The chief tormentor of the Flying Eagles was Malian enterprising midfielder Seydou Keita who later emerges as the Adidas Golden ball award winner.

The defeat of the hapless Flying Eagles caused a lot of uproar in the sporting circle, with the eventual sack of Dutch Coach Thijs Libregts from the technical crew of the Nigeria U-20 National team. The team had a lot of potentials, but they could not fully utilize their full potential. Some notable players from that team include: Joseph Yobo, Rabiu Afolabi, Julius Aghahowa, Haruna Babangida and Late goalkeeper Sam Okoye.