It was raining moderately hard on the morning of Sunday, July 15, as my wife, daughter and I drove from our home to the Herbert W. Armstrong College soccer pitch just a few hundred yards away. We parked by the tower classroom-turned-cycling station, gathered our belongings and our Loma, and charged up the hill and under the soccer tent before the rain had time to drench us.
We were greeted by the Philadelphia Youth Camp 2018 soccer staff: head instructor Adiel Granados and assistants Daniel Cocomise and Emma Moore (assistant Victor Granados, Adiel’s younger brother, was off in the distance painting white lines on the field). Neither boys dorm had arrived just yet.
Naturally, the soccer enthusiasts were streaming the World Cup on a mobile device. Just half an hour into the game, France and Croatia had already scored a goal apiece—an unusually high-scoring pace for a soccer contest, especially at the international level. I watched for a few minutes until the Netherlands-like, orange-clad dorm 1B arrived.
Finally, the team I had come to see climbed the hill: the Cameroon-style, green-wearing dorm 3B. Both dorms had chosen beforehand to pretend to represent a national team that competed in the 2018 World Cup. Perhaps partially because neither the Netherlands nor Cameroon qualified, the dorms opted for different teams. In a typical millennial bandwagon move, dorm 1B picked France, which would become world champions just over an hour later. How predictable. Dorm 3B chose Australia since two of their campers hail from the land with “golden soil and wealth for toil,” per their national anthem.
As the dorms practiced shooting, passing, and goaltending, I chatted with Mr. Cocomise. “I think these teams are evenly matched because of their athleticism,” he said, but gave 1B the slight edge due to their soccer experience. We watched as 3B goaltender Scott warmed up. Mr. Cocomise reminded me that Scott was the mvp of the annual Joseph Cup showdown between Manasseh and Ephraim the week before, recording 14 saves as his Ephraimite squad lost, 6-5, on the last play of the game. (Scott represented Ephraim because his mother is from Australia.)
Since the pregame warmup lasted for 20 minutes, Mr. Cocomise and I had quite some time to chat. We recounted some of the dubious history of France and Croatia, and tried to decide which team it was more ethical to cheer for as Americans. Though France surrendered to Germany in World War ii, we chose our Reubenite brother, though technically I preferred Croatia’s toughness and style of play.
As comical as our chat was, the 1B-3B clash was more enjoyable. After halfheartedly uttering a chant that ended with, “We serve! We serve! We serve!” dorm 3B took the field and played the first half moving from right to left, according to my vantage point under the tent at midfield.
Though unimpressed by the lack of vigor in the chant (they didn’t really know the words), I quickly noticed a sizeable increase in toughness and proper emotion from the camper boys this year compared to years past. The game featured hard slide tackles, a rocket shot to the face, jubilation, and exasperation. Nowhere to be found was crying, complaining or quitting.
Dorm 3B went into halftime with a 1-0 lead, thanks to Mickey calmly slotting a finesse shot into the bottom right corner of the goal on a clean breakaway, easily beating the charging goaltender. Scott preserved the scoreless sheet by denying two breakaway chances by 1B, even using his face to stymie a hard shot from point-blank range, prompting a yell of “Scott Sterling!” from a teammate on the sideline. (Scott Sterling, the star of an online comedic sketch, unintentionally makes every save with his face in a soccer penalty shootout.)
Just as I started to think Mr. Cocomise’s prediction of 1B victory was horribly misguided, 1B’s Nick scored two quick goals after halftime, including one via header. Miss Moore, who had been teaching proper header form to the campers, jumped up and down and pumped her fists with excitement. I can’t recall ever having witnessed another header goal at pyc.
Despite 3B’s grit and effort, the score remained 2-1 until the final whistle. “Australia” had been felled by mighty “France.” Ironically, this was the same score and result of the contest between Australia and France earlier in the World Cup.
After the game, dorm 3B had a frank discussion about what went wrong and how to fix it next time, congratulated 1B on the comeback, and marched away, Noah proudly holding an American flag high in the air.