Two youth soccer teams from Dorchester will travel to Northern Ireland next month to compete in an international tournament in Derry where they compete with teams from England, Ireland, Finland, Germany, and Africa, to name a few.
In total, 34 youngsters from the Under 13 and Under 16 Dorchester Youth Soccer (DYS) teams will fly over for the games, which begin on July 16.
The trip has been almost two years in the making, and the location of the competition is not random. In 1987, two boys from Derry stayed with a teenaged Joe Hobbs, now the program director of DYS and a team coach, while they were playing in a soccer tournament in Boston. The three boys became best friends, with Hobbs visiting them in Derry throughout high school and remaining in touch with them long after.
“These guys are like brothers to me, even though we’re 5,000 miles apart,” said Hobbs of his friends. The tournament, called the Foyle Cup, was suggested to him by one of those friends and it offered the opportunity for Hobbs to let his players have an experience similar to his own: meeting new people, seemingly worlds away, through soccer.
Derry itself has changed much since Hobbs first visited there in the late 1980s. “When I first experienced it, there were soldiers with machine guns patrolling it, there were army barracks...the stuff you see of the Middle East on TV. That’s what it was like in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said. “Now when you cross that border, it’s like driving from Boston to Cambridge.”
This tournament is a large reason for that change, he added. Founded in 1992, the Foyle Cup started as a way to heal the wounds of war by creating an international gathering and inviting people of different faiths and beliefs to experience the “new Derry.”
The Foyle competition, named after a onetime Northern Ireland political constituency, is quickly becoming one of the biggest in the UK, and, with youth teams from clubs such as Manchester United and other English Premier League Teams, the players are being heavily scouted.
Many of the Dorchester youths who are going to Derry next month, each one traveling with at least one parent, have been playing together since the third grade. “We have a handful of Irish-American kids with Irish parents who are going, for the first time, to see where their parents are from,” said Hobbs. “I think they’re ecstatic. I hope so.” Although the group is staying in a hotel for a week, the players will spend two nights with host families to get a taste of the full Irish experience, and, probably, make a few friends.
To donate money to assist with travel expenses, please send a check to “Dorchester Foyle Cup”, c/o Bill Sansone, 23 Belton St., Dor, 02124.Or email the coach Joe Hobbs at email@example.com.