Young and old play for the love of soccer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Jaime Bessonette, 26, of Vicksburg kicks the ball as Eddie Smith, 61, closes in to defend. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/02/01] They play to stay in shape. They play for the rush. But most of all, they play simply for the love of soccer.

Anyone is welcome to play out here. Age is of no concern on this makeshift soccer field.

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On this night, a former Warren Central pitcher is the leading scorer.

“To me it is just like going to the gym and working out,” said Jason Hopkins, a former Warren Central, Meridian Community College and William Carey soccer standout.

For Hopkins and many other former and current players, these pickup games at Waterways three nights per week are a way to stay in shape.

Eddie Smith, 61, is the one who kicked things off.

“I came back from Germany in 1976 and my kids wanted to play here,” Smith said. “I coached them and started playing for fun. In 1982, I was a part of an adult team that played throughout the state. In ’88 we started playing these pickup games.

“Playing now keeps me alert, in shape and lets me know I’m still alive,” Smith added.

Youth mixes with the old at these friendly games.

Current high school players can be seen trying to learn from the older players, or trying to teach them a thing or two.

“I’ve been coming out here for about four years and for me it is a way to stay in the game since I left high school,” said Drew Gorney, a former Vicksburg High School standout.

Kiger Sigh, a 17-year-old senior at Vicksburg High, said, “I play because it’s free, and it keeps my skills up. I learn a lot from old guys like Jason Hopkins and Marty May.”

The only real problem facing this group is where to play. Most of the players are adults who work and they need a lighted field.

Right now, the field in front of Waterways is their only choice. It doesn’t have lights, so games have to start and end earlier.

“We are grateful for Waterways letting us use their field,” Hopkins said. “As far as getting a field of our own, we are willing to play anywhere because if we change times we can play on a minute’s notice.

“Even if we have to play on the backside of a public tennis court, we will play. Those that express they are in for the good of the soccer community should want to help this group.

“We are either current coaches, former coaches or potential coaches.”

John Turner, the Vicksburg Soccer Organization field commissioner, said VSO has only one lighted field but several teams wanting to use it.

“The fields are set up for youth teams,” he said. “I see no problem with (adults) playing on them after the kids finish, but we can’t run off the kids. They are paying to play as well as for the maintaince of the fields.

“The men could register as an amateur team. This would get them insurance and have them help pay to maintain the fields.”

Turner said the group should come to the next VSO meeting, July 10 at 7 p.m. at the Vickburg Factory Outlets.

“They could get to use a field without registering, if they would come to a (VSO) meeting and try to get in the cycle to use the field.

“I have played with the group and love the fact that they are out there playing,” Turner added.

Over the years, the group has played at four different locations: All-Saints, Waterways, Vicksburg Junior High’s football practice field and a softball field. Each time they lose one field, they move on to the next.

The group, which plays on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at Waterways around 6 p.m., is looking for affordable land to place their own lighted field.

“We welcome anyone that wants to play to come out no matter their age, sex, or experience,” Hopkins said. “It is a great workout and a good stress release.”