Hundreds of kids will be convening on Yongin Soccer Center in Gyeonggi Province this weekend for the Asia Soccer Shootout Tournament.
It is the first run for the tournament, organized by International Football Education and SporTour Agency, with 64 teams expected from across the country and overseas.
|Kids at International Football Education play in a warm-up match for the Asia Soccer Shootout, which starts Saturday. (IFE)|
IFE is a soccer school in Seoul run by expats. Its director of football Phil Neiland said that they decided to set up the tournament after seeing the effect the center had on the kids there, from simply experiencing other cultures to more conventional sporting lessons about teamwork, and dealing with wins and losses.
“We have taken kids to Singapore and to Bangkok and, honestly, the learning experience that happens in such a short amount of time is amazing,” he said. “We see these kids change and adapt so quickly, you know, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to Korea, for Koreans and the foreigners living in Korea.”
About half of the teams will be Korean, with the remaining from overseas, from IFE’s own teams and from a separate foreign soccer operation in Ulsan called Rising Stars. The games will be in four age levels, between U8 and U14, and either 7-a-side or 8-a-side.
IFE runs an 11-a-side team in the official Korean Football Association league in an older age group, but Neiland is not keen on putting very young players straight into an 11-a-side format, because of the pitch size and because players can sometimes find it hard to be a part of the action.
“The reason we do small number-a-side is that it gets the kids more touches on the ball,” he said. “And the fields are smaller as well. The KFA still does 11-a-side at this age group but it’s not good for the kids because they don’t touch the ball and there is no way an 8-year-old or even a 10-year-old can even kick the ball halfway up the pitch.”
The tournament is structured to ensure plenty of games for the players, too. The first day is a round robin group stage, from which all teams progress either into an upper or lower tier knock-out competition.
“The most important thing is that all these kids are having fun, because without that, at the age of 13, 75 percent of kids drop out, and one of the main reasons for that is because they stop having fun,” said Neiland.
“At the same time, kids do like to compete and competition is natural. And this is a safe competitive environment, but it’s not the emphasis. It’s more about what they learn and what they get out of these tournaments,” he said.
For more information, visit www.ifesoccer.com
By Paul Kerry (email@example.com)