British soccer brought positive cultural exchange

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Recently in Belen, more than 50 kids from the ages of 4 to 15 came to the understanding that there was a different kind of English language out there than the dialect spoken here in the great Southwestern United States.

The different accent of the blokes teaching soccer to our young Americans during the recent British Soccer camp held at Eagle Park was not the only language difficulty.

The words used in England, such as “pitch”, “penny” and even “football” seemed new to the American kids.

But it wasn’t just soccer words that were different, according to lead coach Callum Stewart.

Rubbish, you might say? Well, rubbish is not a slang word meaning a bad idea or concept. In great Britain, it is simply “trash.”

I always marveled at the signs up above the doors in our classrooms at Ruidoso High. For it was not “English” that was taught at all. It was American grammar that we learned. It was American terminology.

Now, these young kids are getting first-hand experience of the Queen’s English.

I say queen because G.B. (so named by Stewart) will not have a King Charles and by the time we get to King William and Queen Kate, I might be long gone from this earth.

And I will take the young soccer coach’s word for it since he lives in Bath, G.B.; not far from Bristol and 120 miles from London.

It was almost classic comedy to see coach Callum ask the kids to get their pennies, meaning the heap of pull-over jerseys on the ground in front of him. The kids all started looking for change on the ground around them.

The students learned the a “pitch” is a soccer field; to “hold it” doesn’t mean stop, it means pick up the ball; and even the sport that they call “football”, we call soccer.

“That is the international kind of stuff and we have to adapt for the kids,” said Stewart, noting that most of the coaches are only in the States for three months.

“This is not just about soccer camp, it is about the entire environment, as well.”

As the kids put on their pennies and reported to the proper pitch, the football got under way. No rubbish, really.

Stewart is responsible for camps in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. This is his second summer as an instructor with British Soccer Camps.

The kids are split into six teams, taking the names of nations that have a good soccer reputation. Ivory Coast, Rumania, England, Spain, Brazil and Mexico were all represented by the young players.

The kids had to find out two facts about their assigned country on Google or Wikipedia. One young lad said he would look in the encyclopedia.

It became a cultural learning experience to go along with good soccer training.

Of course, the United States was not among the quality soccer-playing nations.

I asked Stewart to give his perspective of why the U.S. does not have a men’s Olympic soccer team.

“Well, you guys, you know,” he stammered, trying not to find an answer that was too demeaning. “Women’s soccer is more vibrant and up-and-coming in America than it is in England. That is strictly because of the revenue issues.”

Stewart noted the equality in sports in America on a collegiate and high school level as being a major asset for American women’s programs.

“It is because of Title IX and that people watch women’s soccer here. The flip is true in England. English soccer for men grosses tremendous revenue, where in the U.S. it does not gross revenue compared to American football or baseball.”

He then noted that it might be better not to have a team than to have to wish that your team could do better.

“G.B. is not going to do very well anyway,” said the young Brit. “I can admit that. I’ll go on record with that. We are not Spain.”

I feel your pain, Callum, as a Seahawk and Mariner fan.

The Brits have come and gone and we in Belen are all the better for the cultural exchange.


-- Email the author at mstearns@news-bulletin.com.