Sport is a language understood the world over, and soccer is no exception.
Soccer has a strong following in Seattle, but what many don't realize is that Seattle also boasts a thriving international soccer community. Local international teams include Ethiopia, Somalia and Vietnam among others, and they annually travel to play similar teams across the country.
As any World Cup soccer aficionado will tell you, it doesn't matter what time the game is broadcast or from where. The sacrifice is worth it just to witness the action.
Now, for all those diehard fans who go into withdrawal when the World Cup tournament ends, it is time to pop the cork and celebrate the first World Cup Seattle (WCS) soccer tournament.
The event will take place Saturday, Aug. 23, and Sunday, Aug. 24 on the Ingraham High School playing field, 1819 N. 135th St.
WCS is the brainchild of Jessica Breznau, founder of Sister Communities (SC), a nonprofit organization based in Southeast Seattle. While the SC mission is simple - working to foster supportive relationships between communities - the story of WCS and SC is a testimony to the power of one person driven by an idea and the desire to make the world a better place.
Breznau knows soccer. After all, she's been playing the sport since she was 8 years old. In addition to participating in local co-recreational leagues, Breznau continues to hone her skills by working as a local referee and playing in neighborhood games.
A winter 2003 trip to Zapote, a remote village in Honduras, deepened her perspective on life. In Zapote, Breznau discovered that women were still grinding corn by hand. Poverty was rampant.
So, Breznau, along with others, bought a small, electric mill, had it trucked to the village and formed a women's cooperative with the goal to help create a pathway out of poverty
But three months later, back in Seattle, Breznau brooded. "How can humans connect as humans, not just across borders, but also by culture, sex, religion?" she asked herself. "How can we as a global community learn from each other and find solutions that work for all?"
In the middle of a pick-up game of soccer with international players in her community, Breznau found the answer: soccer. And from this, Sister Communities and World Cup Seattle was born.
According to Breznau, the goal of SC is to develop cross-cultural connections inside Seattle and between Seattle and communities around the world.
"World Cup Seattle is one way to bring out the best in others while giving local teams a chance to shine," she said.
David Otebele, referee coordi- nator, originally from Nigeria, West Africa, believes WCS is an excellent idea.
"It's a great opportunity for the community to see skilled players from all over the world that reside in Seattle," he said. "Seattle is a great soccer town, and we want WCS to be an annual tradition."
Dave Augustavo became involved as a referee at the invitation of Otebele. "It's always a privilege to referee, to be a part of such a great game." he said. "I like helping out wherever I can, since so many people have helped me along the way.
For referees George Ojeda and Alberto Ramos Soriano, originally from Mexico, and Ever Duarte, originally from Guatemala, this event brings soccer to a higher level than has ever been seen locally before.
"It will be special. We will have representatives from each country, the whole world, and everyone will be putting everything they have into it," Soriano said.
Duarte echoed his sentiments, adding, "It will be amazing, the level of soccer that we'll see. Everyone will do their best so, as referees, we will do our best as well."
Twelve local teams will participate in World Cup Seattle: Brazil, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Romania, Somalia, Tanzania, the United States and Vietnam.
While the goal is to build cross-cultural understanding, Breznau also hopes WCS and SC will build intra-cultural understanding within each team's community.
She explained, "Denmark has a team called The Danes. Many of these folks are already well-assimilated into the community. They don't necessarily see themselves as Danish and may not be as tight with other members of their group, unlike teams from Somalia, Ethiopia and Vietnam, for example. These people are still relatively new immigrants; many are very new. They identify with each other as immigrants. They have the bond of being strangers in a strange land, so maybe they're closer to each other. Our goal is to have each one make connections, instead of having divisions within groups."
Each team will march onto the field with their country's flag to open World Cup Seattle on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 9:15 a.m.
Spiritual leaders from each country also will give a blessing.
On Sunday, Aug. 24, a youth clinic will take place and an international array of food served.
For more information on World Cup Seattle or Sister Communities, go to www.worldcupseatttle.org, or call 760-3794.