Born in England, Cathedral’s Griffiths picked up soccer overseas

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 15, 2009

NATCHEZ — Kris Griffiths has been at Cathedral School for five years.

He has lots of friends and plays on the Green Wave soccer team.

But the senior is different from the other kids at school — just listen to him talk.

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Griffiths was born across the pond in Swindon, England, near Wales, and lived there until he was 13.

“My mom’s from the U.S., and my dad’s from England,” Griffiths said. “My dad moved to Brazil when they split up, and my mom had family here (in Natchez) so she decided to come here.”

Griffiths said when he was first told he was moving to the United States, he was really excited, although he didn’t know quite what to expect.

And moving from Swindon, which he said is about the size of Jackson, to Natchez was quite a culture shock.

“You hear a lot about America, but it’s all stereotypes about cowboys and stuff,” he said. “It’s quite a bit different from what I imagined because, of course, Natchez isn’t big-city America like you picture it.”

But Griffiths said the Southern hospitality he experienced in Natchez helped him soon feel welcome, as did another aspect of the town — soccer.

“Since I could walk I was kicking a ball around,” Griffiths said.

He joined the Cathedral soccer team in his eighth-grade year and got to play in some games right away.

He said the style of play is different from what he’s used to in England.

“Here the play is very aggressive, but I like the aggressiveness,” he said. “In England, it’s a lot more possession-style play — control is a huge factor. Here, it’s all about getting a goal.”

Cathedral coach Rick Simons said Griffiths scored 11 goals his junior year and another three this year.

He said the British player’s style is different from the rest of the team, and he seems to feel more comfortable on the field.

“He’s definitely more relaxed than everyone playing on the rest of the field,” Simons said. “With any sport, when you start out playing young you’re going to be a natural at it. He’s got a good head for it as far as good spacing and movement. Simple moves that come naturally to him take some kids a little longer to develop.”

Simons said many of the players have asked Griffith’s opinion on the style of play overseas, where the game is called football instead of soccer.

“Everyone else respects him and his knowledge of the game,” Simons said. “If they had any questions about how the game is played over there, they came to him. He’s a true asset to the team.”

Griffiths is passionate about the sport, and he said his favorite team is West Ham United of London.

“My dad, since he was a kid, was a West Ham fan,” he said. “They’re a very working-class team — not like Manchester United and Chelsea. Those are rich teams, and they’re always stealing other teams players.

“West Ham creates good players. They’re called the Academy of Football.”

Griffiths hasn’t been back to England since moving to the U.S., although he has had some relatives visit him in Natchez.

While his sister has moved back to England to play soccer and go to school, Griffiths said he’s looking to further his education in the States. He said he’d like to study criminal justice.

“Right now I’m looking pretty strongly at Mississippi College,” he said. “They have a Division-III team there, and I was thinking about talking to the coach about getting on there.”

And while Griffiths likes the United States and plans to live in America, he still wants to see more.

“It’s a great country, and I will probably end up staying and making a living here,” he said. “But I will be one of those guys who travels the world, for sure.”