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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Soccer Classic kicks off today

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Soccer Classic kicks off today

For the past 31 years the first weeks of July have become synonymous with soccer and Clifton Park and this weekend will not be any different as the Rose & Kiernan/Clifton Park International Soccer Classic gets underway on the Clifton Common Soccer Complex and Shenendehowa Campus.

More than 130 teams will compete in this year's event, playing more than 300 contests on 22 soccer fields with 17 different soccer champions expected to be crowned by Sunday evening.

The event is the primary fundraiser for the Clifton Park Soccer Club, supporting the recreation program with its more than 500 players along with its 32 travel teams, coaches and programs.

The event continues to be a free event for all spectators and has an economic impact to Clifton Park and the surrounding community of more than $500,000 each year, based on the Albany Convention and Visitor's Bureau formula of $72.50 per attendee for a sporting event. More than 300 hotel rooms have been booked for the weekend in Saratoga and Albany counties.

This year the Soccer Classic continues to have an international flavor with the U16 boys Deux-Montagnes squad from Southwestern Quebec, Canada, the S D & G Blazers from Cornwall, Ontario and the U17/19 girls Alianza Soccer Club from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario competing.

The tournament has had competing teams from Germany, England, France, Denmark, Austria, Australia and Scotland. This year a team from the Republic of Cameroon, Africa contacted the tournament committee, but was unable to commit.

The annual event is supported by the more than 1,000 volunteers, most of them parents of players competing in the Clifton Park Soccer Club's recreation and travel programs. Each parent donates two hours towards the tournament's preparation, operation and post-tournament clean-up.

The tournament's chairperson this year is Helmut Gerstenberger, a past player in the soccer classic.
"It's definitely been an honor and a pleasure," Gerstenberger said. "There is a lot to it, but I work with a lot of great people, including 25 who have been involved in it for all 31 years."

In the first Clifton Park Soccer Tournament in 1976, Dr. Pepper was the tournament sponsor and Gerstenberger was 8 years old competing in the event for the first time.
"I remember playing in it, it was a thrill," Gerstenberger said. "At that point weren't too many youth sporting events of that size. Now I've been able to see it grow."

As the sport of soccer has grown across the nation, Gerstenberger has seen competition grow with it as more organizations host their own tournaments, but not to the level of the annual Soccer Classic.

"Within this area there are 15 to 20 outdoor tournaments within a 50-mile radius," Gerstenberger said. "There is a tournament in Oneonta and at Hartwick almost weekly. Saratoga, Niskayuna, Bethlehem each have their tournaments, you're seeing how popular it has become."

The Soccer Classic has accommodated as many as 153 teams, but Gerstenberger said 132 may be the perfect number for the annual event.

"We're at capacity now," Gerstenberger said. "We don't want the games to go later. We have a coach's dinner Saturday night and teams want to know their game times for Sunday at a reasonable hour."

"You hope that you don't have oppressive heat and hope that you've done all the planning, dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's," Gerstenberger said. "Once things start you want to make sure everybody has fun and that the parents remember this is for the kids. We should be in great shape."

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