Kent soccer team takes goodwill mission to Norway
By MARK KLAAS
NOTE: The following article originally appeared in the Kent Reporter on Aug. 9. For more articles like this one, visit www.kentreporter.com.
A grinning Connor Troutner beamed with anticipation.
It's not every day you get a chance to explore a Scandinavian country and play on a foreign field – just for kicks.
Troutner, a 13-year-old defender, and his 13 other soccer teammates are ready to take it all in.
"I'm really excited," he said. "I get to learn all about Norway, its food, language and how they do things. ... I'm ready to go."
The Kent contingent, supported by three coaches and a chaperone, enjoyed an official sendoff ceremony with Mayor Suzette Cooke at City Hall on Tuesday morning before leaving for a two-week trip to Norway. The adventure – an enormous project supported by the Kent business, civic and soccer community – is an inaugural soccer/cultural exchange trip fueled by the Kent Sister Cities Association (KSCA) Norway Committee.
The KSCA teamed up with the Kent Youth Soccer Association (KYSA) to establish the soccer relationship between Kent and Sunnfjord, a traditional district in western Norway and a popular tourist region, with spectacular waterfalls, fishing, white-water rafting, glaciers, hiking and beautiful scenery.
After encouragement from the mayor of Sunnfjord, a cultural exchange was developed to unite soccer players from the communities.
The Kent team of select players will travel to Sunnfjord, play in four or five soccer matches in four communities, and stay with host families in nearby Gaular. The visiting players will engage in many activities with the families, absorbing the culture.
The boys will take part in activities and attend school. The journey to Norway also includes community service, in which the boys will participate in park cleanup events, international festivals and making presentations throughout the community about the program.
The Kent players also plan to take in a Premier League match.
"I've been out of our country, but nothing like this," said Brendan Leistiko, 13, an outside midfielder. "I'm not worried about the competition. I'm more excited about what everybody will be doing over there."
Added Blake Capperauld, "It will be good exposure for us to play a different style of soccer."
To get to Norway, Kent players and parents organized fundraisers. Players did their share of volunteer work.
The KYSA, KSCA, Veolia Transportation, Bowen Scarff and Golden Steer sponsored the effort. The team also received uniforms from Adidas and a grant from the Sons of Norway Foundation.
Kent plans to reciprocate when a team from Norway visits in 2014. Delegates from the KSCA Norway Committee plan to travel to Norway in September to negotiate the new Memorandum of Understanding (official governing terms of the sister city relationship). The soccer/cultural exchange will be part of the memorandum.
For Ashtin Stuart, 13, the trip promises to be what Cooke described as a "memory maker."
"It's a chance that most kids don't get," he said. "It's a chance to have fun and hang out with friends."
Players participating are: Leistiko; Troutner; Capperauld; Stuart; Christopher Goebel; Brandon Kam; Easton Hulstrom; Dylan Leeman; Micah Wills; Jack Tate; Tyler Hutsell; Noah Arndt; Aidan Cabrera; and Shane Andersen.
Coaches are: Tim Leeman; Travis Leistiko; and Robert Goebel. The chaperone is Michelle Kam.
Contact Kent Reporter Regional Editor Mark Klaas at firstname.lastname@example.org