Corder: With talent here, soccer needs help

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

I feel as though it’d be a copout to write a Super Bowl column this week and bore you with some cheesy, Kodak moment excuse of why I like the Pats over the Panthers, or vice versa.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll share those thoughts with you a bit later, but for now I’ve got what I feel is a more pressing topic.

It does concern football; however, just not the one that armchair quarterbacks care to discuss.

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I’m talking about the international version of football &045; no, not NFL Europe, you twit. Soccer. I played it organized once and never bought it until I grew up and became cultured &045; like when I was a pimply-faced sophomore in high school.

From Acadiana to Baton Rouge to the N.O., Louisiana always has good teams, especially those select teams that tour.

After watching a lot of games as a writer here, I see the game’s fundamentals at both Cathedral and Natchez similar to what I saw in Baton Rouge at schools such as Catholic, McKinley and Baton Rouge High, or that of Jesuit and St. Paul’s from the New Orleans’ area, or Episcopal of Acadiana in Cade.

However, only schools from metro areas have won Class 1A/2A/3A state championships since the Mississippi High School Activities Association decided to split the participating schools back in 2000.

Before, larger schools competed for a Class 1 title with smaller schools competing for the Class 2 title.

Since 2000, Bat St. Louis’ Our Lady Academy has won the girls title each season, while West Lauderdale (less than 15 miles outside of Meridian), Biloxi’s Mercy Cross and St Joseph of Jackson have won on the boys’ side (St. Joe’s has won it the last two years).

&uot;We’re at a constant pace to brainstorm on how we can generate more excitement to show the benefits of the sport,&uot; Natchez High head coach Dennis Hogue said. &uot;It also has a lot to do with a lack of knowledge. I talk to parents who have kids that play, but they don’t understand the nuances of the game.&uot;

Natchez recreation currently offers a fall league in which teams compete in divisions from Under-6 to Under-18. However, Hogue, who helps run the league, said there was barely enough interest in 2003 in U-18 to field four teams.

It has Hogue pondering whether to initiate a six-on-six leagues to create more teams.

&uot;I don’t think the population is big enough. Most of these guys love soccer, but they go from one sport to the next,&uot; Cathedral head coach Rick Freeman said. &uot;I don’t think anybody has given up on it. The enthusiasm is there. It’s just something that will come with time and skill Š and, of course, money.&uot;

The fact that those involved in the sport have to go foster their zeal outside the town’s limits is just another log on the fire for why this community needs a recreation complex so tournaments can be held in a variety of sports, including soccer or softball.

&uot;It’s a no-brainer. I’d be curious for the arguments for why not. I know, because of taxes, but we spend money on some other unnecessary things,&uot; Hogue said.

Like on all the chips and salsa you’ll stuff your face with this Sunday. By the way, I’m limbing it and picking the upset with the Panthers, 13-10.

Chuck Corder

is a sports writer for The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3633 or by e-mail at