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Soccer gaining popularity in Johnson County over last few years

By Matt Hill

Over the last month, the World Cup Soccer Tournament has been captivating audiences all over the world and even in the United States, where soccer has been an afterthought for so long.
Locally, Alvaro Leon and the staff at Poblanos Mexican Grill have been around the game for a long time and want to see it grow in Johnson County.
Leon says his customers at Poblanos have been following the United States in the World Cup, who lost in the round of 16 to Ghana two weeks ago.
“I think the U.S.A. did such a great job in this World Cup,” Leon said. “They had a tough game, but I think the U.S.A. has an awesome future. There are now a lot of options for kids to play soccer in the United States. They’re trying to bring the World Cup here 2018 and you can go online and vote and we need five million votes.”
Of course Leon was also interested in Mexico, who also lost in the round of 16 to Argentina.
“Mexico did good too but they had to play a strong Argentina team that has been one of the best countries for soccer forever,” Leon said. “We had bad luck drawing Argentina. I think we’ll have a good team in the future.”
It was said on television last week that some of the World Cup games had been outdrawing last year’s Major League World Series, a big reversal of fortune from recent years.
“Right now everybody is more serious about soccer, before they weren’t that serious about soccer,” Leon said. “It’s a very good sport. If kids start playing soccer, we’ll have better teams in the future and if you’re good enough you can have a scholarship in soccer.
In Johnson County however, soccer has struggled to grow,
Johnson County High School does not have a team and there are very few opportunities to play soccer here.
One league that is doing well is the Johnson County Youth Alliance soccer league under the direction of Bob Watts.
The league has more of a faith-based theme and focuses more on sportsmanship than competitiveness.
Other than the Youth Alliance, there are not many places to play.
Still, Leon sees a lot of interest here in Johnson County for soccer.
“Not having a high school team does bother me a little bit because I talk a lot about soccer to my customers in the restrauant and everybody knows it. I’ve talked to people in the county and we need to continue what we’ve been doing and we practice soccer at the park sometimes and some of the kids want to play. If we can continue like this, the kids later on will be able to play with the school or a particular team,” Leon said.
The group from Poblanos play in a league in Boone, N.C., where soccer is huge.
“We’ve been playing there for ten years and right now more Americans are playing,” Leon said. “We have about five or six American teams. Right now we’re at 18 teams but if we keep like this we could get up to 20 or 25 teams in the next couple of years.”
Leon expects soccer to continue to get bigger in Johnson County.
For complete details please pick up your copy of this weeks, The Tomahawk, available at local newsstands today!