Soccerfest offers unique game experience

Chad Illum
Chad Illum
Niles Shimabukuro
Niles Shimabukuro
Jordan Lopez
Jordan Lopez

By Jason Tang - bio | email

WAIPAHU (KHNL) - Day one of the American Youth Soccer Organization's national games kicks off Wednesday, but it's not your typical way of getting a tournament going.

Instead of playing with your normal teammates, players mix together with other teams giving them a one of a kind experience.

She shoots, and she scores.

But winning isn't the object of the AYSO national games.

Instead the organization promotes healthy lifestyles while teaching kids valuable life skills.

One way they do that, is their program Soccerfest.

"Soccerfest is really a key, it's actually something we like to start our program with because it gets it off on the right foot," said Mark Stewart, board vice-president.

Kids from all over the country, including Hawaii, are randomly put together on teams so they can learn about each other and their culture.

"You know the Hawaii kids are really cool, they're pretty sweet, they got to show us a little, tell us a little about their island and stuff," said Chad Illum of Team Weber Utah.

Some may think playing with people you just met wouldn't be hard, however, coaches feel just the opposite.

"Most of these boys come here with a positive attitude to play and have fun, right now they're just here to have fun and enjoy the sun," said Niles Shimabukuro, Kaneohe region assistant coach.

The players also say they can see the purpose behind the program.

"Just to get to know everybody from all over, so that when we play against them we're not like scared, since we know each other," said Jordan Lopez, Team Diamond head.

But things didn't always go smoothly on the field.

"It was really hard because I didn't know anyone's name," said Lopez.  "They told me but I couldn't remember so I just started calling them by their numbers."

Organizers say when all is said and done, Soccerfest is the event the kids cherish the most.

Pool play begins Thursday with the semifinals and finals taking place this weekend.