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Lots of Happy Feet at Soccer Expo

Orange County

July 20, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

Parker Flynn of Orange has an idea of how big soccer is in his community. He plays in the Orange Junior Soccer Club with 2,150 other youngsters on 147 teams.

But Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center, the 11-year-old saw an even bigger chunk of the soccer world assembled in one place, and he marveled at "how big it is!" -- referring to the collection of players, exhibitions, stars, products and contests.

"And they give out [Los Angeles] Galaxy tickets for free," he said with a big smile.

The Soccer Nation International Expo, which opened Friday and ends today, was billed as the first large gathering in Southern California of fans, coaches, players and product manufacturers.

The event, produced by Live Wire Sports Group, was being held in conjunction with the U.S. Futsal Federation's 18th national indoor soccer championships, where 100 teams of men, women and children in 12 categories competed nonstop on six courts from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The champions in each category should be crowned by midday today, said Bill Hodson, marketing director of Live Wire Sports Group.

With scores of vendors unveiling and selling cutting-edge equipment such as shoes, pads and balls, expo visitors wandered from booth to booth, taking notes or buying.

"There's so many specialized things for soccer, it's hard to see them all," said David DeLeon, who runs the Orange club. "So it's nice to see it all in one spot."

More than 60 manufacturers, retailers, soccer organizations and teams had booths.

In a small space between the vendors and the Futsal competition, the Nike Skill Squad put on a demonstration of soccer ball-handling that had the same flavor as the company's famed basketball commercial.

Jeremy Anish, 13, of Costa Mesa was on a quest for "new products," but specifically shinguards. "This is, like, the newer stuff. They're testing stuff" for players who know what's what.

He proudly displayed his new Molten shinguards that his brother, Alon, 7, said couldn't be broken "with a hammer."

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