God save the teams

Local Soccer Youths’ Goal is England

By Brian Covert
Headlight Feature Writer

United States history will be made beginning April 3, possibly putting the South Bay area of southern California on British travel brochures as one of the hot spots to visit besides Disneyland.

No, it’s not another Boston-type Tea Party in the works, but rather a group of 16 lads ranging from 10 to 13 years old from Lomita, Harbor City, Torrance and Carson who will be visiting England and playing soccer against some of Britain’s own youth soccer teams.

It will be the first time that boys their ages from the South Bay area will play soccer in England, and they will be representing not only their home cities and state, but the whole nation as well. And that’s quite an accomplishment in itself.

“It’ll be a good experience, though, to get to know other people that live way over there,” said Matt Vicelja, one excited team player.

According to parent Pat Arnett, the team (they call themselves the “Strikers”), which is sponsored by the American Youth Soccer Organization, met with L.A. County Supervisors and Torrance city officials on March 16 — and then April 2, it’s off to Dorcester, England where the boys will be staying with volunteer host families for about 10 days. The team, accompanied by coaches and a few relatives, will also get a chance to do some sightseeing in London, and at Stonehenge and Windsor Castle.

To top it off, the team will be playing a one-day tournament in France after their series of matches against the English teams. “We’ll play a French team. We won’t be able to talk to them, but we’ll be able to play soccer against them,” said Matt Arnett, another team member.

The boys will be back in town on April 14, providing everything goes smoothly with the TWA plane trip.

Prior to making arrangements with TWA, the team had paid about $18,000 in air fare through Britain’s own Laker Airlines. But as the company went bankrupt recently, the team was refunded all but $3,000 of their money. Nevertheless, it hasn’t dampened the team spirit a bit, and the youths have been assured of a warm and hearty welcome by their English competitors.

The team has received donations from various sportswear companies, as well as sew-on patches from the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. Although the team’s parents and coaches are not asking for financial support from the community, any voluntary donations from individuals or businesses would be welcomed and properly used toward the trip, says parent Joe Vicelja.

The team is coached by parent Vance Erskine and pro soccer player Keith Walley, with help from parents Lynn Tyler and Joe Vicelja.

Members of the team are Les Bennett, Moe D’Onofrio, Matt Arnett, Trevor Ferruggia, Zach Henderson, Mike McDaniel, Jeremy Spencer, Tony Vest, Matt Vicelja, Terry Woulfe, Craig Colby, Jon Erskine, Danny Gauna, Chris Longacre, Steve Shea and Bryan Tyler.

A message of good luck and positive thoughts goes to the team, and remember guys, it’s not if you win or lose, but how you perform at Tea Time.