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Why we built this

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We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, sorrow,  play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.

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1988-Cougars United Nations

St. Paul, MN

Franklin Tawah.  In my view,  in my almost 50 years in Minnesota soccer their is no more important person. He was able to ignite the resonance of Minnesota soccer, literally pulling the local men's league out of the dark ages of the dark ages by it ear. His great leap through the evolutionary design space was to bring ideas together. Those new ideas were behind the greatest generation, so many many great players.  Why did he take this leap? He wanted to win, sure, and maybe that's the biggest lesson, in order to win he had to first put aside competition. Franklin was going to first get the gang together, a gang that did not understand, but he did.

 

 My best friend Victor had convinced me to join his new team he formed with Franklin Tawah, the Cougars United.  Now I had already been playing in the Men's league for over ten years, I knew the landscape, but this was interesting territory.  They were a curious group, a mix of nationalities, players from everywhere, Peru, Mexico, a foul mouth goalie from Scotland, a cranky Belgian stopper, a German sweeper, a scary Cuban midfielder with a giant afro and thighs to match, a couple of Brazilians, a Vietnamese winger with not a lick of English, a couple of white American kids for reference, I guess.  I called them the Cougars United Nations.  They destroyed everyone in the league that year.  I remember my team, the Harliquins getting beat 4-0 with a flip up volley goal from the small Brazilian, Reinaldo that should have been worth 4 more. Franklin, a short, engaging Cameroonian was still young and a strong player, he most certainly could have played but instead choose the sidelines that fitted his cigarette smoking better.  "Besides," he would always say  "it take everything I have to keep these guys playing together." 

Franklin's dare to do what no club or group had done before--after all, soccer was about culture and it should stay that way, if you are German you play with the Kickers, Hispanic the Andinos, English the Bozos (Yes, Bozos--and they were very good!) the Iranians were all on IRFC, the Ukrainians on the Blackhawks, the white kids from St. Thomas on the Cougars, (Not to be confused with cougars united, the cougars were the vaunted first team). Franklin loved politics, he loved the idea of America, he and his Cameroonian buddies would argue for hours on politics, but Franklin was like a short fat statue of liberty, he has the inalienable right to put together the best soccer team the State had ever seen. And he had heard it all: "they will never be able to play together," " you will never win," " you are not the first person to try this-" "-it never works." Why are you trying to ruin everything?"

He brushed that aside, he saw through the prejudice to the person but even more, to the player, the very center of joy in his players--he thought they were actually all the same, they all loved soccer and wanted to be a part of something great.  There was no Germany or Vietnam, there was only good soccer.  Franklin would be the first coach in Minnesota to pick the very best players regardless of where they were born or raised or looked like. His peers, those that ran the other teams laughed at the strange group.  They were not laughingstocks long. They rolled through the leagues, vanquishing the Cougars, my team the Harlequins, the cardinals, the Kickers, the Bozos, the Blackhawks, all of them.

 

He has never been given his do. He showed that sport was way bigger than any of us understood, that is anyone but Franklin. Few know of him. If not the muscle (that was Buzz) he was the brains behind the great successes of the 1990's, the MN select team, the Thunder, the Donaldson team that won the National Championship in 1990, and many, many players including very influential ties to Tony Sanneh who Franklin mentored and championed early. When Tony was the best player on the field in the epic quarter final of the 2002 World Cup against Germany, perhaps the only person who was not surprised was Franklin. 

 

One thing about Franklin is that he believed, in himself, and if he selected you then hen believed in you. "Teddy," he said as Eric Wynalda ran past me,  "Teddy, remember who you are! No one gets by you." (more to came on this story). 

Franklin taught me that soccer was a language that we all spoke, that brought us together. 

Fittingly, though they had the best record at 15-3  they didn't win the league, to win the league back then you needed to play the game very well and (more importantly) not rock the boat.  You had to know your place.  A "second" team was not allowed to win the league, much less one with a wretched refuse of a player pool that broke long held unspoken rules. No, the governing board simply named that that another team was gifted 6 extra points for facing a team with an illegal player, thus a 2nd place team instead of a record 12-3-3magically became 14-1-3  just enough to force a tie with the Blackhawks who then took the league on goal difference.

 

Still Franklin understood what he had accomplished, he had made a statement and he saw that they could not flourish as the "Second" team of the Cougars, he would break away, form a new club, he gave that club a name that fits their unique, and as he saw it, vital, makeup. He convinced me to join, I brought some others (Glenn, Jason, Pat) and FC Internationals were formed, and for the next two decades they were the greatest amateur side Minnesota has ever seen.

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1989--Brazil

St. Louis Park, MN

Later that year, in January, Victor and I took a week trip to Brazil that would change my life.  I was so affected, that right then and there is was never the same. 

Here is an excerpt from the journal


Saturday, Feb 17, 1989, Jundiai, Brazil

ON BRAZILIAN SOCCER
The Brazilian's are very touchy about their soccer. They very deeply want to hold on to the claim as the world's best. But can such a claim be made?  Brazil has not won the world cup since '70. Since Pele.

Let's start on the ground level. here, on the streets, on the campinho's, everyone is good, many are great.  They play more than we do and they enjoy playing more than we do, perhaps more than anyone. They laugh, they tease, joke, play hard. They play for fun. They play to look good more than win. I remember the score--they remember who they dribbled. Ze, the calmest, nicest guy off the field is a trash-talking loudmouth on it. Afterward, it's always the same in his limited English he recaps all his best moves, forgetting anything but that, "did you like my show?" 


We played every day in Brazil in every imaginable setting.  The weekly game in the construction Campinho was my favorite--not at first, I was like: "where's the grass?"

They taught me a different side to the game.  Though I played at the highest levels, they understood a better way of playing.  As the weeks and games went by, on the futsal courts, the beach, the sitiou, the campinho, I began to let go of the score, of the win.  

I grew up playing hockey on the ponds of Golden Valley.  This was like that.  I started to recall the great winter pick up soccer games at USC (where I went my freshman year), and later,  the spring games at Trinity, or the practice games with the Internationals in Richfield. They were always fun. Really? Was this the key? Had I let my desire to rank, compete, work, and win get in the way of my growth? Were these seemingly meaningless games Brazil's secret?   Their key to growth?  Could an environment like this be cultivated in the US?  Maybe. I took notes, asked questions.  I was determined to bring this back home.   

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1996--Monroe

Monroe Elementary, St. Paul, MN

Anyone who played soccer for the Blackhawks in the 90's and 00's, and there numbers are vaunted, understood Monroe skills training as fun on steroids. 4 days a week, 20 house a week, for 15 winters I ran Monroe skills,  thousands of hours thousands of kids. The place was famous.  I was assisted by Nate Winkel (who later went on to form the world-famous Ole Football Academy on Wellington New Zealand, a set up that has produced Tyler Boyd, Ryan Thomas, and MN United Noah Billingsly among others). 

Three floors, three different size gyms, a massive tournament of 3 v 3 games became famous.  3 courts on the top floor a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place court, if you lost on the first place court your team rumbled down the stairs as fast as you could to the basement court, the dungeon, the lowest court on the hierarchy, an old wrestling gym where you had to dodge the wrestling mat, when your team shows up they would count off "5,4,3,2,1, time" the winner in the dungeon moved up to the middle gym where there were two more teams playing and the countdown again, they sent the winner up to the main court and when showed up I counted down the 3 games going on, We found it work best with 2 teams on the move, and 10 teams playing, we could easily handle 40 kids, Playing with early Futebol de Salon balls (rather than more Futsals)  It was so much fun we forgot to coach we just watched...

My brother Glenn who was coaching in the Blackhawks at the time observed "the kids do so great until 11, then at 12, they are  handed over to a full time coach.  Maybe it would be better to 

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2004--Brazilian Instute de Futebol/The first Futsal Tournament

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.

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The Launching Pad

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

Like I said Franklin had belief. When Bob Gansler, who was coaching the us 

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Play

Hopkins  , MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

What is underloading?

 

Varsity High School Hockey Tryouts, Hopkins High School, 1975, preseason rank: #5

 

THe athletic Director and hockey coach was playing a game with me, “You play hockey too?” I had played basketball my sophomore year, wrestling my junior year and he thought that was funny. “You could play hockey too, right?”

 

He talked me into coming out, the tryouts were crazy. 60 kids on one ice sheet. And they had already removed last year’s varsity, there were only 6 or so spots.  I was there just to try it irking my friends who had been playing in the youth systems for years hoping to make it, as if my presence there lowered ther opportunity to make varsity.

 

It was the first time I had ever worn hockey gloves, the school gave me a giant pair, they looked and felt like robot hands designed by some 1950 sci fi movie set.

 

I had also never played with boards. I remember the acoustics of 60 kids skating in a lightening whirlpool, the sound was so scathe, only the whistle from the coach could make it through the cutting sharps of the edging blades.

 

The head coach ran the practice, I remember that this is a fun, well run practice, I remember all the strange routines everyone did, with stretching, putting the stick over your shoulders and twisting, so I did it too. 


I was a twelve year old hockey rat.  Our local park was landlocked with the addition of the new highway to the west, the sheriffs mountain (hil, reall) to the north, the hoda trails to the east and the great railroad swamps to the south.

 

No where to go put the park, and that’s what we all did, in the summer playing baseball and hotbox, in the fall football, in the spring basketball, adn mostly in the elong winters hockey.

 

Like magic it would snow over night.   I would run to the bedroom window. Once the trees leaves fell in the fall there was a small sliver that peaked through to the park. From that sliver you looked for two things, was the ice clear? Yes! The sweeper would brush the snow off the ice with such force that it served to resurface the ice, and more importantly, was there skaters? Yes! 

Within seconds I was out the door, if it was snowy and cold I would put on my skates at home and skate of the road three blocks to the park, dulling my skates, sure, but so much more important--I saved time for more play.  We had only one board that separate the skating area from the "hockey" area.  In later years we had actually nets. But back then it was just a half circle of ice, skaters, a puck if you had one (tennis balls filled with rice as extras) and four snowballs as goals.

"no lifting" was the only spoken rule, but  there were plenty of non spoken, I had learned them from Rick and Rob who were my heros when I was young, but they were not coming to the park anymore, they had somehow 

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2011 The Power of Play

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.

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2012 Soccer Experience

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.

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The academies

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory. 

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2014 Dinamo Zagreb

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.

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2015 U17 South American Championship

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.

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2015 Finland

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.

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Verheijen

St. Louis Park, MN
(More of the Goats' origin story to come....)

We have a deep and rich purpose that has been built over 10 years of watching kids grow in the wild.  This is our story; the story of love, play, joyful learning, mistakes, and victory.