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April 19, 1999 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-19

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14 - The Michigan Daily -- SportsMonday - April 19, 1999

- V2.In

fir the


"On the road you'd go
places and people would
come out and watch because
they thought we were
Michigan's varsity team."
fow e lae

After 46 years, men's soccer
gets a foot in the varsity door
Stories by Uma Subramanian O Daily Sports Writer

In the early 1950s, the United States
was in the middle of the Cold War,
Buddy Holly blared from the jukebox
and James Dean was in his prime.
Legendary heroes like baseball's Jackie
Robinson and track's Roger Bannister lit
up the sports world.
But far away from the media glare, the
game of soccer was beginning to pene-
trate Amrican lives. On Oct. 17, 1953,
The Midigan Daily described soccer as
a "rugged sport with an international fla-
vor that is rapidly climbing on the
Michigan sports horizon."
At that same time, the paper predicted
that the Wolverine Soccer Club - as the
Michigan men's soccer team was known
was on the verge of gaining varsity
The Wolverines remained on that
verge through 46 years and two national
championships. Now, the team finally
has wbatit has so long sought.
"We't all out there playing because
we like to play now," club president Ryan
Yoder said. "The game isn't going to
change any. We're still going to play
every day and have fun doing it.
"It's just now there are
new opportunities that we
haven't ever experienced at
before, like good travel {
arrangements ... no more dri-
ving team buses and vans. It's
those things that everyone is
excited about. It's been 50 years
in the coming. Fifty years and
we're finally going to get the little
perks that we've been wanting."
But those 50 years weren't wast-
ed. The Michigan men's soccer team
has had a rich and complicated his-
tory that began after World War II and
is still unfolding today.
Throughout the years, the team has
been composed of foreign students,
former football players and
Ameritans who just love the game.
From Football to "Football"
Though in this country it has only
begun to emerge as a national pastime in
recent years, soccer has long been popu-
lar on the international scene, uniting
fans from around the globe.
This team's roots are also deeply inter-
twined with that "foreign" game. In the
late 1940s, the University's International
Center sponsored an intramural soccer
league that played games twice a week.
Eath country formed its own team,
and each fall there were approximately
nine countries represented. But not
everyone had a country for which to

As a result, the club was officially
founded in 1948. In those early years, the
program received no funding from the
"Those of us that were left over
formed our own team," said Len
Harding, who was one of the only
Americans on the team in 1957. "It was
very informal and for a while we had
only four or five guys.
"We really enjoyed the game and we
got some fans - especially girlfriends
- who came out and watched. It was a
lot of fun and we didn't lose."
Due to the lack of support, the players
often wore jerseys borrowed from the
football team and supplied their own
socks and pads.
"Soccer was never a sport in this
country," Harding said. "It's a world-
class sport that never really caught on
here. If you played baseball, you taught
your son to play baseball and he taught
his son. It was a pretty rough-and-
tumble game because
t h e

interesting trend began.
Extending their careers
Players who had played in major col-
legiate programs as undergrads, espe-
cially in the East, came to Michigan and
saw the club team as a way to continue
playing as graduate students.
"The team played a lot of ethnic teams
around Detroit, said Mike Malley, a for-
mer Wolverine from England. "It was
very much an ethnic game in those days.
Everybody playing was born and raised
in foreign countries like Germany,
England, India and Brazil.
"Every country had its own style and
it was hard to make everyone agree. But
the foreigners had a passion for the game
because there was national pride on the
Undoubtedly, the '70s were a time of
transition throughout much of the world.
The same was true for the Wolverines. In
the early '70s, when Steve Olson was a
player, there were two teams, one for
graduate students, and the other for
s undergrads.
Those former collegiate stars who
had once consented to playing with
the undergrads had split off and
formed their own team.
"When I first started, the gradu-
ate club was the stronger club and
it regularly kicked our asses," said
Olson, a veteran referee who
' called the first championship
game of Major League Soccer.
"It was composed of foreigners
and varsity athletes from other
colleges who still wanted to
play. In fact, in '74-75, our
team had only two foreigners."
Olson took over as coach in 1978,
the team became more successful, and
went 18-2 in 1980, his final year.
In the '70s, the club remained on its
own to fund itself and find places to
play. The players didn't even have prop-
er uniforms. Their jerseys shrank by 25
percent the first time they were washed.
"It was hard to go and beat varsity
teams and not have the same respect and
treatment here," Olson said. "But on the
road you'd go places and people would
come out and watch because they
thought we were Michigan's varsity
Olson recalled a game against
Indiana-Purdue at a stadium in Fort
Wayne when the stands were filled
because it was Girl Scout Night.
"All the little girls thought that we
were U of M varsity athletes," Olson
said. "Our guys were signing auto-
graphs, but were pretty embarrassed

Because of Michigan's contract with Nike, the Michigan men's soccer team may not be able to practice in their favorite
warmups in the new millenlum. But that's OK, because that means the team has achieved varsity status.

On Oct. 17, 1953, the Daily showed the
Wolverine Soccer Club trying to kick into a
higher gear.
players weren't skilled."
Harding said many teams the
Wolverines faced in those early years
were composed from a thin population
of qualified athletes.
"The players I played against weren't
coached," Harding said. "They were
what was left over from the football
team. They played with football cleats
too, which hurt when you were kicked,"
The team flourished in the 1950s,
winning a lot more than it lost.
Throughout the '60s, soccer at
Michigan continued in pretty much the
same way, as a loosely organized team
that played just for fun.
But in the early years of the decade, an

because they weren't used to the recog-
nition. People were flabbergasted that we
weren't a varsity program."
Soccer's popularity in the United
States really began to grow in the late
'70s when the North American Soccer
League, the now defunct professional
soccer league, planted its seed in the
suburbs, where the game really took off.
"So many changes have happened to
the sporting landscape where in the '70s
soccer was a part of the subculture and
now it's a major demographic."
As the game was developing on a
national level, it was also developing on
the collegiate level. During Burns' time
as a player, the National Collegiate
Soccer Association was formed in 1988.
The formal organization of club soc-
cer made it more difficult for Michigan
to compete against varsity teams.
Regardless, in the past five years, the
Wolverines have achieved the most suc-
cess they have ever known.
The past three years, they have com-
peted in the championship game of the
national club tournament and are cur-
rently the defending back-to-back
national champions.
Even the University's Athletic
Department has taken notice.

"All of us who are involved with the
sport recognize the contributions that
these young men have made," Michigan
associate Athletic Director Mike
Stevenson said. "They're excellent
scholar athletes who have brought a lot
of pride to the program."
A struggle for status
Though it has had a successful and
colorful history, the team that began as
the Wolverine soccer club will have a
new title for the new millennium. In the
fall of 2000, it will be a fully supported
child of the Athletic Department.
The telling of the program's colorful
history, though, would not be complete
without a brief note about the program's
fight for varsity status.
Club teams are responsible for doing
everything themselves. They must fund
their own travels, and pay for their own
referees, uniforms and expenses.
As a result, the coach and the team are
not free to merely play the game. They
must also concentrate on the piddly
details that are taken for granted by var-
sity programs.
From the beginning, the Michigan
men's soccer team has sought help from
the Athletic Department, though in the
early days there wasn't much talk of var-
sity status except from speculative

But truth be told, the athletes didn't
get much support.
"Every fall we had guys who would
march down to see (former Athletic
Director) Fritz Crisler," Harding said.
"But he was not about to have a soccer
team. We met with him every year, but
we never got anywhere nor did we
expect to."
Though daunted, the team wasn't dis-
couraged. But it wasn't until the late '70s
that the team started presenting serious
proposals to the Athletic Department.
During Olson's tenure as coach the
team's application for varsity status actu-
ally passed through the Board in Control
of Intercollegiate Athletics. Because of a
lack of funding, the measure failed.
Malley, who founded the World Cup
Committee in Detroit, helped the team
write numerous proposals to the board,
including a 37-page work in 1997.
Finally this year, the idea caught on.
"It's always only been a matter of
resources," Stevenson said. "There's
been an awareness that it's a tremendous
sport that deserves recognition. It was
just a matter of timing."
For many of the current players, the
responsibility rests with them to carry
the club tradition out on the highest note

Listen up - coach says Michigan could be a national power

Walder DeSouza, assistant coach of
the Michigan men's soccer team,
played on the 1972 Brazilian Olympic
team..He's seen the world class players
and even was a teammate of Pel6,
unquestionably history's greatest play-
When DeSouza talks, people listen.
And right now DeSouza says that
when"the Michigan men's soccer team
goes Varsity in the fall of 2000, it could
be one of the top programs in the coun-
try in three years.
Granted, that won't be easy, but that's
where next year comes in. The 1999-
2000season will be a time of transi-
tion. "
Everyone associated with the team
realizes that things are going to change
and change very soon. In less than a
year, the roster will be different, the
facilities will be different and, as a var-
sity team, there will be many more
obligations to fulfill and people to
Forexample, if an athlete prefers to
jpractice in a certain pair of lucky
shorts he may not be able to because of
the stipulations of the University's con-
tract With Nike. But while there may be
a few drawbacks, the overall consensus
is that though it was a long time in the
coming, this is a good thing.
4 su~ cr [: 9 .41, -

a field, transportation, or jerseys.
Although everything may appear
grand, there is one issue that's disheart-
ening. Michigan unquestionably has
one of the most talented club programs
in the country. Two national champi-
onships will attest to that.
But the players will readily admit
that they are realistically the equivalent
to a mid-level Division I team. For the
team to be competitive, it will have to
recruit the top players in the country.
"The reality is that in Division I
men's soccer there's a big gap between
the elite teams and everyone else," said
former Michigan coach and player
Steve Olson. "The top teams are nearly
equivalent to professional programs.
But Michigan never does anything
halfway. They won't do this halfway.
"They will try to create a program
that's competitive right from the start."
The University is known for its
recruiting capabilities. The school's
name as well as its academic reputation
has in the past drawn some of the best
student-athletes to Ann Arbor. Both the
Athletic Department and Michigan
alumni are certain that the Wolverines
will become competitive soon.
In fact, within the first five years,
Michigan will offer 9.9 scholarships.
That kind of money will bring with it a
lnt of..a ..;ti;c nn,-p

ing forward to competing at a high
level. We're looking forward to taking
the program to a higher level."
Another area of uncertainty sur-
rounds the coaching staff. As yet, no
one knows for sure what direction the
program will take. But current coach
Steve Burns, who played for the
Wolverines in the late '80s and who is
in contention for the varsity position,
said that no matter who takes over the
program, that person will be looking
for the "Michigan man."
"We're looking for a bright kid who
feels they can make a difference,"
Burns said. "If I could I'd put up fences
around the state and no one could come
and get players out of Michigan."
Although fences might be a bit of a
stretch, many people believe that the
Wolverines will be able to keep people
in state anyway.
"Michigan will do everything first
class. There's no reason it couldn't be
one of the top programs," said current
player Russell Walker.
Walker played four years of varsity
soccer at Cornell before coming to
Michigan this year for graduate school.
Walker said this current group of
Wolverines has all the talent to com-
pete with the varsity programs.
"The only real difference between
the teams is in the attitude and in the

But varsity status is still a year away.
In the meantime, the 1998 national
club champions still want to be a part
of the tradition and the transition and
bring home another championship in
the coming year.
This team could become an integral
part of the recruiting process if poten-
tial recruits are brought in to meet
them. This fall the team will face off
against Wisconsin and Northwestern,
two varsity teams.
No one knows what the future will
hold, but these players also hope to
have some say in one matter - uni-
Most of the players were definitely
in agreement about a set of yellows, but
"I'd like to have white, yellow and blue,
three sets," Purdy said.
"I'd like to have a uniform designed
just for us. A lot of the big time teams
have uniforms that were only for them.
If you look at our uniforms, they were
all kind of generic. I'd like something
with a special design."
Though changes are in the wind, for
50 years, the Michigan men's club soc-
cer team provided the University with
something it could be proud of.
"The club is going to provide a good
transition to the varsity team,"
Michigan senior Alan Zakaria said.
"We've left a strong legacy here. The

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