International Soccer Storms Central Connecticut

By Christopher Boulay

It was recently announced that the New Britain Parks and Recreation Department are hosting a FIFA International Friendly between Northern Ireland and Turkey on May 26 at 1:30pm at Veterans Stadium, Willow Brook Park. This is the first international soccer match that has been in New Britain in a few years, but is surely a great accomplishment for the city of New Britain.

Soccer used to be a staple in the Hardware City, as the Connecticut Wolves, a United Soccer League club, played in New Britain from 1993-2002. Though our team is gone, having a match of this caliber will not only remind Connecticut of the importance of soccer in the area, it also could mean bigger and better things for the future.

With the buildup to the World Cup in South Africa in June, the United States is developing into a hotbed for building the game in the final run-up to the tournament. Especially with the United States playing in Rentschler Field on May 25 at 8pm. Having two of these matches right in our backyard gives us the opportunity to see a smorgasbord of world class talent in a very short period of time.

With soccer support building very quickly in the United States, and in Connecticut specifically; what used to be a rare event, the amount of top-level soccer in the area may become more of the norm.

Turkey finished third in UEFA Group 5 qualifying, two points behind Bosnia and Herzegovina for a playoff place. Spain won the group with 30 points, doubling the point tally by Turkey. They were the 3rd place finishers in the 2002 World Cup. Northern Ireland finished fourth in Group 3, behind Slovakia, Slovenia and Czech Republic. The Northern Irish last qualified for the World Cup in 1986.

Though neither team is going to the World Cup in June, they will be bringing players that are quite recognizable in the soccer world. Among the Northern Irish are Maik Taylor, the goalkeeper for Birmingham City; Aaron Hughes, defender from Fulham; George McCartney, defender from Sunderland; David Healy, striker for Ipswich Town and Kyle Lafferty, striker from Glasgow Rangers.

For the Turks, they have some recognizable names of their own: Tuncay Sanli, a defender from Stoke City; midfielder Emre Belozoglu and goalkeeper Volkan Demirel, both from Fenerbahce; Halil Altintop from Eintracht Frankfurt; and Nihat Kahveci, from Besiktas.

Having these games in two weeks are a perfect way to spend the first week of summer freedom for CCSU students. But if you are a soccer fan, you probably already are going.

Even if you are not a big soccer fan, this is a great opportunity for our city, our state and for sport in the area. With two top-level soccer matches within 24 hours of each other in Connecticut, good attendance could mean great things for sport in the state for the future.

There is nothing like the atmosphere of a live soccer match. It is something that cannot be explained until you have experienced it. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.