Volume 75, Number 21 | October 12 - 18, 2005

Coach Anna Vidal-Kaufman and Friedrich Krauch and Nicky Greenberg of Team Zambia

Zambia vs. Uruguay: It’s a whole new world of soccer

By Judith Stiles

Persistent rain drenched the majority of ball fields Columbus Day Weekend, resulting in the cancellation of flag football games, fall baseball and even soccer matches. On Saturday, while puddles formed on the courtyard at Pier 40, several teams from the Manhattan Kickers soccer club tried to escape the rain by leaving town for a big tournament in Pennsylvania, only to find that a torrential downpour made those fields unplayable too. The relentless bad weather forced the teams to turn right around and come back to the Big Apple because the tournament was cancelled.

Dozens of grumpy kids were relegated to a Saturday of being cooped up indoors. But by Sunday, the hearty soccer teams in the Downtown United Soccer Club recreational program showed up for their games at Pier 40, anxious to kick the ball around, in spite of a misty cold drizzle. Steven Kaufman, Division 5 coordinator of 8-year-old boys and girls, stood on the sidelines and happily watched his wife, Anna Vidal-Kaufman, prepare her team, Zambia, with pregame drills and a relaxed pep talk about positions on the field.

“I was a replacement coach last year, but this year I realized I had learned a great deal about the game from the soccer moms’ coach, Manny D’Almeida, so now I have my own team,” said Vidal-Kaufman, as she bolted onto the field to adeptly demonstrate the proper way to pass the ball.

Sixteen-year-old Eliot Gardiner, a junior at the Nest School, was the licensed referee who set a positive tone for the game, as he sometimes stopped the game to make corrections on the field. Early in the game, he blew the whistle, leaned over the players and smiled, as he explained the “soft offside rule,” which meant no player was allowed to hang around the opposing team’s net, waiting to receive a pass for a sneaky goal.

During the first half of the game there was the typical beehiving around the ball where most of the players followed the ball in a bunch, only to see a single player burst out from the pack with the ball for a breakaway. However, Zambia’s Friedrich Krauch played excellent defense — never beehiving — but always in position, skillfully thwarting several scoring attempts by Team Uruguay.

Five minutes into the first half, Zambia’s David Vidal-Kaufman skillfully dribbled his way through a pack of defenders and planted the ball in the right-hand corner of the net for the first goal. A parent from Uruguay yelled out to his team, “Don’t be so polite!” as the game continued. Roland Wynter was goalkeeper for Uruguay and although he made three great kick-saves, he could not stop his cousin Carlton Wynter, who scored two goals in the first half on breakaways. Uruguay’s Zachary Zamsky answered with a blast into the back of the net, leaving the score at halftime 3-1 in favor of Zambia.

In the second half, nobody from Uruguay could score on Zambia’s star goalie, Nicky Greenberg, who made five great saves — without goalie gloves. Although Uruguay coaches Isam Salah and Stuart Zamsky downplayed the importance of keeping score, every kid new exactly what the score was at the end of the game and could describe the goals in detail. However, at the end of the game, there was an eerie-but-pleasant lack of enthusiasm for winning, and on the flipside no Uruguayans seemed at all upset by losing 5-1. As the players trotted off the field, the postgame chatter was about the upcoming clinics, where recreational players can learn more about the game from professional coaches.

This year Downtown United boasts eight co-ed recreational divisions, as well as three divisions just for girls, travel teams and a new program of tournament teams in which players attend at least five local tournaments a year. The most popular addition to the club is the free instruction for parents who are coaching in which they can obtain an “F”-class license after a weekend of rigorous instruction on how to be an effective coach.

This new licensing program has caused a major shift in the atmosphere of the rec program, resulting in newly educated coaches placing an emphasis on building skills as they de-emphasize the importance of winning or losing. And although one won’t find many kids shouting, “We won! We won!” after the games, it is still in their DNA to keep track of the score — and “Oh yes, Carlton got a hat trick,” mumbled one of the players as he stood in line to shake his opponents’ hands.

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