HomeSportsSoccerPickup soccer, Island style

Pickup soccer, Island style

ANNA MARIA – For more than a decade, a band of brothers bonded by the game of soccer have played pickup games on Island fields, while building friendships and an ever-growing soccer family, including many sisters in the sport.

Bringing to each game a white shirt and a dark shirt to create two teams, players knew they were in for a friendly, but competitive game of soccer.

With its roots on the Holmes Beach open fields adjacent to the municipal complex on Marina Drive, the players came together weekly, eventually using homemade goals courtesy of Darrin Wash and Wash Family Construction.

The original gang of Islanders included Rico Beissert, Lyn Clarke, Damir Glavan, Josh Sato, Kris Yavalar Chris Culhane, Greg Ross, Darrin Wash and Paul “Ace” Hayward.

Pickup soccer, Island style
From left, top row: Josh Sato, Chris Culhane and Kris Yavalar; second row: Lyn Clarke, Rico Beissert, Damir Glavan and returning players Leslie and Josh Rio; bottom row: Steve Oelfke. – Monica Simpson | Sun

Growing the love of the game, many of the pickup players helped to develop and manned the teams in The Center of Anna Maria Island’s first adult co-ed soccer league in recent history. The league at its origin more than eight years ago was a mix of the pickup players and the parents of The Center’s youth soccer league players.

Among the many players who helped grow the league, Clarke, the oldest Island player at 83, used the pickup games as his Center team’s official practices. On Clarke’s first season roster were experienced players and individuals who had never laced up a pair of “boots” as he called them.

The Center’s league is now comprised of a solid mix of the OGs, former college soccer players and soccer coaches, with sprinklings of first timers and players seeking a fun, competitive environment.

Hayward was one of the pickup players who participated in the first seasons of the Center’s league. The player and coach, like many, brought his infectious passion for soccer to the Island. The Hayward “smiledeep” corner remains at The Center of Anna Maria Island’s soccer field as a dedication to his lifelong passion for the sport and the deep tie he had with this group of Islanders.

Shortly after his death, The Center was the venue for a soccer tournament in his name, with many of the pickup players helping to make the event a success. The second “smiledeep” soccer tournament, dedicated to Hayward, is scheduled at The Center on Saturday, Nov. 11.

As the pickup group grew, a new generation of OGs expanded the group. While there is a consistent core group of players, others come and go as their lives have taken them on and off Anna Maria Island.

The bond is on and off the pitch, with gatherings at Slim’s Place to watch the soccer match of the day and sharing a meal at the local German restaurant to celebrate Octoberfest with some of the German players on the Island.

The love of the sport and the love of country makes this group an amazing collective of individuals from all walks of life, bonded by “football.” With a large contingency of international players, the world’s most popular sport ties together those who made the Anna Maria Island area home after moving to the United States.

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