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Ventura County Focus | Countywide / SIMI VALLEY

Goal of Mini Soccer Game Is More Fans

July 27, 1998|JOEL P. ENGARDIO

Sometimes smaller is better: microbrews, microchips and now, micro-soccer.

It's a condensed, more intense and even faster-paced version fit to please America's shorter attention span, which for the most part has led U.S. sports fans to ignore the world's most popular sport.

But in Simi Valley, soccer has gone micro in the hopes of getting more kids excited about the game. The Simi Soccer Foundation hosted its first micro-soccer tournament over the weekend, giving 20 local teams the chance to try out the smaller, quicker and higher-scoring game in exhibition matches.

For Simi Valley High School soccer Coach Mark Johnson, an event coordinator, this experiment will help pique an interest in the regular form of soccer.

"Americans want results and winners now," Johnson said, explaining why traditional soccer, with its typically low-scoring games, has not yet attracted wide appeal in this country. "Everyone appreciates Michael Jordan for one reason: He scores points."

The pace on the micro-soccer field is like a three-on-three basketball game. The field is only 15 yards by 30 yards, compared to the regular soccer field of 70 by 120 yards. And instead of 11 players on a team, there are three.

Each athlete plays defense and offense, and there are no goalies. The goals are tiny--boxes just 3 feet high, made of netting. There is nonstop action during the 14-minute game, which is shorter than the 15-minute halftime of a regulation 90-minute game.

"There are lots of moves and scores. It's quick and intense; that's why people will like this more," Johnson said of the micro version, which is a popular way for professional soccer teams overseas to practice their scoring skills.

More than 100 boys and girls, 10 to 16, played in the tournament through Sunday. Most are on traditional soccer teams in the Simi and west San Fernando valleys.

For the players, however, smaller did not mean easier.

"It's a quicker game and kind of confusing," said 13-year-old Samantha Spencer of Woodland Hills. "We've never played like this before, and we're getting used to it."

Rocky Caprarella, 12, of Westlake Village said there is no time to rest like on the large soccer field when the action is happening on the other end.

"This makes you think faster, and you have to be aware of the whole field at once," she said.

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