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Ben Smith

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5 State Cup titles secures city’s rep

– The story this fine June evening is here, and here, and over here. Bobby Poursanidis points, and your eyes follow. Out there are soccer balls flying off the insteps of soccer kids, as far as you can see.

“Our 16 boys,” Poursanidis says, pointing. “Our 13 boys … 18 girls … 16 girls …”

Here and here and here, and here. Five Fever soccer teams in all training for regionals at Hefner Fields – they started Friday in Des Moines, Iowa – and if that means Poursanidis’ life right now is 10 pounds of hectic in a five-pound bag, you won’t hear him complain.

“It’s been absolutely chaotic,” he says. “But a good chaotic.”

That’s because talent and will and, OK, no little measure of luck came together recently for these five soccer teams, and all of them wound up winning State Cup titles. Three of their title matches went overtime. Two of them, the U16 girls and U18 girls, went to penalty kicks.

“Nerve-wracking,” Poursanidis says. “But it was awesome to watch, because it wasn’t about skills anymore. It was about determination. It was about persistence.”

And, yes, about making a mark, too. No other city in the state came close to those five State Cup titles, after all. No other validation for Fort Wayne as a soccer town – and it is, and has been, for a long time – is necessary.

And the best part of it all?

That’s only half of this story.

The rest, Poursanidis can’t wait to tell you, because it, too, is validation for Fort Wayne as a soccer town. After 10 years in separate orbits, and to the obvious benefit of every kid who ever sent a soccer ball scooting across a swatch of grass in this city, the two premier youth soccer programs in town – Citadel Futbol Club and the Fever – are joining forces.

The launch date for Fort Wayne United Futbol Club (“Two Premier Clubs United. One Common Goal” the logo reads) is August. Poursanidis will be director of coaching and operations, and he’ll be backed by a staff that is an embarrassment of soccer riches: Paco Castillo and Mitch Ellisen and Alan Bodenstein and David Bokhart and Nick Potter and Rob Berkley and Jason Lee and Aaron Tulloch and Jamar Beasley.

“We’ve created a three-tier level for everybody,” says Poursanidis, who notes that 750 kids showed up for the FWUFC tryouts this month. “We’ve created an academy level that’s going to compete in the best leagues in the region, an elite level and a premier level.

“There’s a place for everybody this time. Kids will know if they’re successful they can move on from premier to elite, from elite to academy. So it’s an awesome situation, and it’s something this community needs. It’s what every player needs.”

That includes these two over here, sitting on a golf cart in the last slow minutes before practice. Amber Hoot is a center-forward on the U16 Fever team, and when she’s not playing for the Fever she plays for Carroll. Kellee O’Shaughnessy, who also plays for the U16s, plays in the fall for Bishop Dwenger. Hoot has been playing soccer since she was “5 or 6.” O’Shaughnessy, who’s been playing Fever soccer since she was about the same age, first started bumping a ball around when she was 3.

Neither had won a State Cup before this year. Neither ever tires of the game, even though it’s a nearly year-round proposition now.

“No, it’s never gotten old,” O’Shaughnessy says, and in those words you hear the echoes of literally hundreds of kids like her.

Here. And here. And over here, too.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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