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June 2, 2006

Blair's World Cup

by Abe Schwadron, Online Managing Editor
Dozens of students line the perimeter of the arena, raucously rooting on their favorite teams and erupting in cheers after every amazing save, complex move and devastating goal. Although the atmosphere rivals that of a professional event, the players are Blair students, rocketing a soccer ball around the small gymnasium to the screams of their countrymen, fans and foes. The Blair Sports Academy's (BSA) indoor soccer league has become the most popular after-school activity for Blazers, and as the 26-team league reaches its championship game today, Friday, the BSA is the talk of Blair Boulevard.

A Quick Dash to Popularity

Interest around Blair in the indoor soccer league has grown exponentially since its inception three years ago, when the league had just 14 teams. Jose Segura, the Montgomery County Recreation Department director of the BSA, attributes the growth in both participation and popularity to several key factors. "There are a couple of variables that make the league so successful. First is the diversity of the school, and second is the opportunity for those students who haven't achieved a 2.0 GPA to play," says Segura.

Blair P.E. teacher and co-director of the BSA, Emmanuel Charles, credits last year's participants in the BSA with the league's rise in popularity. "The kids who played last year spread the word," he says. "The players saw how much fun it was and told their friends."

Jack Graul, a member of the team Los Gringos—last spring's champion—says he hears students discussing the indoor soccer league on a daily basis. "All the time, kids ask when we're playing, or if we won last week. Sometimes kids even bet on the games," says Graul, whose team was eliminated from the league's 20-team Double Elimination Tournament early last week.

The Universal Appeal

The soccer league's unique appeal has reached every community inside Blair. Teams like Ethio Promiseland 1 and Ethio Promiseland 2—this year's favorite to win the championship—treat the league like the World Cup, playing for the pride of their home country, while other teams choose to emulate their heroes, such as upstart teams Juventus, D.C. United and Barcelona. Team names range from Allen's Fan Club to 503 El Salvador to Los Galaticos, and each team expresses its unique personality on the hardcourt field.

The team that perhaps best represents the diversity of the BSA is United Nations, whose roster is made up of a group of friends—juniors Alex Asare-Wassow, Dag Otto Groennaess, Alec McLean and Francois Miglianico and senior Vince Howard—who hail from different countries, as far away as Ghana and Norway.

And though Asare-Wassow maintains a serious tone when he's on the pitch, he admits the BSA's appeal is not limited to the soccer. "First of all, it's free," he says. The BSA routinely offers spectators and participants free slushies, ice cream and snacks.

Graul says the BSA appealed to him "because it's right after school," and he and Asare-Wassow agree that sticking it to their buddies in the tournament is equally important. "It's competition against friends," says Asare-Wassow. "And enemies," adds Barcelona forward Matias Salina, who admits to having taken the game too seriously last spring, when he was ejected for fighting during the season-ending tournament. "People just want to win," says Salina. "If they lose, they get really mad."

Although Segura says "the goal for the program was to provide an after-school activity for at-risk youth," the BSA has become an arena for Blazers to immerse themselves in heated competition. Charles says the competitiveness of the games is a result of the fact that "these kids love soccer, and a lot are never going to play for real teams, or they are ineligible, so this is like their championship."

Face-Off

Both Segura and Charles are confident the BSA will be successful in years to come; with an increased budget and plans to add more sports to the program intramural sports should continue to grow. "The county government expanded the budget at the end of May to fund [the Blair Sports Academy] through 2007," says Segura. "We've been given 314,000 dollars for a 40-week program, including a summer program, and hopefully a fall basketball league."

The impact of the BSA has given students more than just a place to go when classes are over. As Graul describes it, "the BSA is more than after-school soccer."

The championship game of the BSA's season-ending 20-team Double Elimination Tournament will be played after school in the small gym today, June 2, or as Ethio Promiseland 2 defender Firew Abirham puts it, "when we're getting the trophy."



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  • AJKing on June 2, 2006 at 9:18 AM
    FOR SURE Blair CAN WIN THIS.
  • D (View Email) on June 2, 2006 at 11:45 AM
    I am thrilled, as an MBHS alum (96), to see that Blair is encouraging soccer power. Keep it going!
  • #7 on June 2, 2006 at 12:52 PM
    barcelonas star player jimmy diaz. sike
  • varun on June 2, 2006 at 5:32 PM
    great article, abe. i liked reading it.
  • RU on June 3, 2006 at 11:45 AM
    Very nice article...
  • yayuh on June 4, 2006 at 9:24 PM
    go allen's fan club!
  • xXx on June 5, 2006 at 10:05 AM
    LET'S GO BLAZERS LETS GO!! WOOT WOOT! (:

    yup, i'm like totally psyched about the whole world cup. i mean it's the worl cup. it's not like Blair's national cup or statewide cup but worldwide. i mean wow!

    ...i actually think it's a good idea, i'm not that sarcastic.
  • juventus star player <<< on June 5, 2006 at 2:01 PM
    ethipia promise land 2 may have won the championship this year, but we're coming back next year to take the trophy so watch out!
    glad someone wrote an article about BSA tho, it was about time
  • gringo (View Email) on June 6, 2006 at 11:48 AM
    fluke ship....we'll be back next year to get our ring back!

    gringo power
  • ethiogirl liyu (View Email) on June 7, 2006 at 6:13 PM
    go ethio ethio ethio ethio ethiopians .that is what i am talking about.we are ethioheros i am proud to be ethiopian .we deserv it the best part was when we cheer never forgot that day.anyway we won we won we won!thank you for witting this article. go all ethiopians be safe until we take next year's trophy.sheam on you who did not support us . we ethiopian's are rock!loven it .ETHIOPIA PROMISE LAND 1&2 LOVE YOU
  • ethiolove on June 8, 2006 at 11:06 PM
    congra congra all ethiopians in blair we did it.i am glad we are the champions.we are rocks star soccer players and lovers.love you all ethios and that includs me too!
  • Small Simba's (View Email) on July 6, 2006 at 11:41 AM
    The indoor soccer league started back in 2000. I was part of the SS group which was CHEATED out of the Finals thanks to the ref/the golie...honestly how can the ref be part of a participating team? (I'm not going to name names but his name sounded like the number "1")lol anyways, good to see it started back up after two years of scandals.
  • John (View Email) on July 6, 2006 at 2:44 PM
    We should show sport events on campus so that people get together and watch them!
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