Fujinomiya, Japan – Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and two local soccer teams helped prove that point by traveling 7,000 miles across the Pacific to Santa Monica’s sister city of Fujinomiya, Japan to participate in an annual summer youth tournament held in the shadow of Mt. Fuji.
The girls under twelve team, coached by Peter Meyer and Angel Vasquez, brought home the championship trophy. Santa Monica player Sasha Meyer had a terrific tournament and was voted “Outstanding Player of the Tournament,” the highest individual honor.
The boys under twelve team, coached by Dickie Pye and Steve Eyler, went 2-2 in qualifying rounds and missed the finals. The boys’ team nonetheless represented Santa Monica well, winning the Friendship Trophy. The primary mission of the visit is friendship.
“It was the experience of a lifetime for the players,” notes parent Norbert Seifert who accompanied his son, Kenny, on the trip. While most nights were spent in hotels, pairs of Santa Monica players were hosted by Japanese families in their homes for two nights during the visit. In addition to playing soccer, the entourage toured cultural attractions and natural wonders including water falls in the foothills of Mt. Fuji.
American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Region 20 Commissioner Maryanne LaGuardia accompanied the team on the trip and was honored by Fujinomiya city leaders at a tree planting ceremony marking the 30th anniversary as sister cities.
The mid-August visit to Santa Monica’s sister city was the second for a Santa Monica AYSO team. Five years ago, the girls under twelve team also played in the Fujinomiya Tournament and they too won the championship. .With nearly 2,000 players, AYSO is Santa Monica’s largest youth sports league and sign-ups are still available for many age groups for the upcoming fall ’05 season. Games start Saturday, September 10. Fees are $140 per player registered and financial assistance based upon need is available. Visit www.ayso20.org for instructions and completed registrations must be dropped off at Kramer Sporting Goods, 1727 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica (one block east of John Adams Middle School). Families who do not have access to the internet can pick up pre-printed registration materials at Kramer’s. Sign-ups include children aged 4-18.