Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

An English voyage: Whitman men’s soccer travels abroad

“Being able to visit the stadium even when not watching a game…was more than sick,” said Fleming.  “[It] was a pilgrimage to my soccer Mecca.”

“Stepping into [Old Trafford] pretty much brought me to tears.”

These are the words of Whitman senior John Fleming who this past August along with thirteen of his teammates traveled over four thousand miles across the pond to England, the homeland of men’s soccer coach Mike Washington.

The trip has become somewhat of a tradition for the Whitman men’s soccer program. Every four years, Washington takes a group of returning players to England for two weeks, to experience the English soccer lifestyle, bask in the glory of Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, and play some soccer along the way. This was the third year that Washington brought his group on the trip and suffice it to say, every player had a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

While the team did get the chance to experience the culture that is English futbol, the team’s main intention for going was, of course, to play soccer. The players that went on the trip were all returners, giving them a chance to come together as a core of the team before preseason began at the end of August. “We were able to take two weeks out of our summer where all we had to focus on was soccer,” said sophomore Devin Kuh. “This let us begin to form a bond off the field, to play better on the field. A lot of the time you get caught up in playing, and you can’t really be together off the field.”

“The day-to-day living was probably what brought us together even more than just playing soccer together over there,” said Fleming. “Soccer is a common pursuit. The fact that we lived together, had all of our meals together, we had to endure the monotony of the day [as a team].” Both Fleming and Kuh believe that being together and playing together for two weeks as already translated to greater continuity on the field, now eight games into the season.

In addition to coming together as a core of returners, the players were able to experience a totally unique style of play in England, completely different from what is typically found in the U.S. “We got to see a whole new style of playing,” said senior Tim Shu. “It was great to see all the passion [the English] have for the sport, which you don’t see nearly as much in the United States.” The playing style in England is much less physical and “based more on skill than just booting the ball,” according to Shu.

Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that Whitman soccer went international, and was able to experience first-hand the culture that is known worldwide as being over-the-top passionate for soccer. “Americans who have not played soccer in England can’t really understand what soccer is all about and how soccer is a religion, not just a sport,” said Fleming. When the team went to watch Bristol City play Millwall, they were witnesses to the devotion fans have to their hometown team; the Millwall fans who came to Bristol, England, had their own stands surrounded by police escorts, to protect them from the Bristol City fans, and cheered like crazy when their team scored. “It wasn’t even the highest pro league [in England], but people traveled two, three hours to see the game,” said Kuh. “They’re still really devoted to it.”

The players also were able to go into a pub attached to the stadium typically reserved for Bristol City fans during games. “It was awesome to see how into it [all the die-hard BCFC fans] were,” said Fleming. “Babies that were six weeks old were already becoming part of the Bristol City fan base.”

And at Old Trafford –– also known as the Field of Dreams –– Fleming was able to experience the home of his favorite club team of over a decade, Manchester United. “Being able to visit the stadium even when not watching a game…was more than sick,” said Fleming.

“[It] was a pilgrimage to my soccer Mecca.”

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