June 23, 2006

Soccer fever has no borders

California and Baja California teens will share their soccer skills in Tijuana.

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Without a doubt, soccer unites nations. And although the World Cup is the best example of this, we have another proof about that closer to home.

A group of California and Baja California teenagers will compete against each other in four soccer matches scheduled for Saturday, June 24, in Tijuana.

The games are hosted by the Binational Committee on Education, Athletics and Culture, which was established in 2005 to create common opportunities to share experiences between the two states, said Ricardo Soto, Assistant Secretary of Education in California.

“Our students have a lot of cultural similarities, including the love for soccer,” he said. “Soccer is very popular in San Diego and in Baja California.”

This is the first time that the Binational Committee has held an event involving both sides of the border, Soto said.

To participate in the games, the California student athletes, which were selected from soccer clubs in San Diego County, had to have at least a 2.0 grade point average and they had to go through the try outs, he added.

Soto said that the eight teams will be composed from California and Baja California students.

“We didn’t want to make it a California vs. Baja California event. We wanted the students from both states to interact with each other and to participate together in this,” he said.

Teodoro Guerrero, spokesperson for Baja California State Sport Institute in Tijuana, said that instead of a competition, the binational soccer matches are a chance to begin a sport exchange between the two states.

“It’s important that students from both sides of the border have this type of contact so that they can have a richer cultural experience,” Guerrero said.

The Baja California athletes were chosen by the State Sport Institute from the pool of talented teens that have participated in the Institute´s events in the past, he said.

Before going to Tijuana on Saturday, participating students were scheduled to have practices and trainings at Southwestern College, in Chula Vista, on Thursday and Friday.

“We’re very pleased to host this event and to provide opportunity for students to practice on our campus,” said Nevada Smith, director of Community and Media Relations for Southwestern College.

Since the games were only open to high school students, no Southwestern College students will participate, she said.

“Hopefully in the future they will organize college competitions as well,” Smith said.

U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team star Shannon McMillan was scheduled to visit the trainings at Southwestern College on Thursday, Soto said.

Next year, the Binational Committee is planning to hold sporting events in Tijuana in seven sports, Guerrero said.

The soccer matches will be held at Centro de Alto Rendimiento in Tijuana, on the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California (UABC) campus.

The opening ceremony begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

There will be four games: 10:15 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Baja California Governor Eugenio Elorduy established the Binational Committee on Education, Athletics and Culture in 2005.

The soccer games are sponsored by California Secretary of Education Alan Bersin and Baja California Secretary of Education Jose Posada.

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