Soccer camp in Edgard extends N.O. relief effort

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Sports Editor

EDGARD – In some cases, the rebuilding effort in New Orleans has become a building effort.

That was the goal at hand at West St. John Elementary Saturday when local youths got the chance to learn some soccer pointers from some guys that should know. Former professional player and current coach at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Jon Akin, was on hand along with former teammate Velko Iotov and several players from the Oglethorpe soccer squad.

It was a culmination of local connections that brought the event together as Akin and some members of his team were involved in relief efforts in N.O. and formed alternative Christmas and Spring Break trips to aid in the rebuilding. One member of his squad hails from the River Region, Erik Horne, as a native to LaPlace. A conversation with his mother, Sandra Horne, led to talk of interest in staging a children’s camp to entertain the kids and promote the sport.

&#8220It’s the grass roots events that interest young people in soccer,” said Akin. &#8220If soccer is going to get better exposure, it’s important for kids to be able to meet some people who have played the game at a high level. Of course, we’re just going through some basic stuff with them, but it works out well for both sides. They’re having a blast running around and even some of the little ones are already really coordinated and athletic. But truth be told, I get a kick out of it more than they do.”

So, going from charity drives and rebuilding swamped houses at alternative Christmas Breaks, the Oglethorpe volunteers found an opportunity to plant a seed in Edgard for the world’s most popular sport.

More than 60 kids turned out for the camp, which ran in two sessions, one in the morning for the younger children, and another in the afternoon with the middle school kids.

&#8220What’s going on here is more than just a face or a celebrity joining the American league,” said Iotov, a native of Bulgaria. &#8220That type of stuff is only good for the short term interest. It’s the camps and events where the kids actually get to meet and learn from people who have been at successful levels of the sport. Those are the types of things that really promote soccer to grow. It’s not just a face or a name that’s going to be behind the scenes and gone tomorrow or the next day. With the level of competition here, the athletes that it can draw naturally make the game more popular and more exciting. That’s why we’re here today.”

Joining Iotov and Akin for the trip were five Oglethorpe players including Horne, Matt Brisendine, Danner Marsden, Michael Muller and Michael Hadjisimos.