Pinny lanes | On the margins and in the barrens, soccer gains a foothold

Link to Bangor Daily News article

Celebrating Washington County’s wild-blueberry heritage is Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls. The site features gift shop and baking on premises, as well as lots of blue paint. (Copyright © 2006 Alice Sneary)

Deblois, Maine | In the part of the state that Mainers call Down East, soccer has flourished along with a bumper crop of wild blueberries. For the seventh consecutive summer, migrant blueberry harvesters, many from Mexico, on Aug 19 contested former area high school players for the Wyman’s Cup. The cup is named for the Jasper Wyman and Son blueberry processing company based in Washington County, the source of some 90 percent of the nation’s wild blueberries, and represents one of several grassroots soccer stories recently in the news.

Surprising organizers, several hundred spectators turned out for the 6 p.m. match, a fixture set only after the harvesting had been completed faster than expected (see Katherine Cassidy,Soccer Tourney Caps Blueberry Harvest,” Bangor Daily News, Aug 21). “It’s like a Fellini movie” said Wyman president Ed Flanagan of the stream of cars arriving at the remote field. Occupants set out blankets and lawn chairs and drank beer while watching the Mexican side prevail 3–2 over the locals.

Some 300 Hispanic workers, from Mexico and Honduras, work seasonally for the Wyman company. Honduran workers, in fact, asked to play soccer as well and were scheduled for a game versus Mexico on Sunday. Overall, an estimated 8,000 migrants work at a dozen camps in Washington County. About 65 percent are Hispanic with many of the rest from the Passamaquoddy and Micmac tribes of Maine and Canada (Katherine Cassidy, “Harvest Harmony,” Bangor Daily News, Aug 15).

A compelling description of the area comes from

The barrens are a stark, wild, almost surreal landscape, a smooth undulating carpet of blueberry plants, rhodora, tea-berry and bracken with only an occasional lonely pine or great glacial boulder to break the horizon. In June the barrens are speckled with the white blossoms and on a nice summer’s day the air is thick with the fragrance of ripening berries and sun-warmed laurel.

Link to showcases another of the unique soccer cultures in the USA (Amy Bracken,Embracing Refugee Youths with Soccer,” Aug 15). Ten thousand refugees from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe resettled in the Rust Belt hamlet of Utica, New York, have struggled to assimilate, but the pickup football matches at a local high school have proven popular with the large numbers of youth. Refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma, Somalia (Bantu), Haiti, El Salvador and Jamaica mingle and create an ad hoc community, while a local refugee center assists with language and job training.

Many immigrants and refugees here call soccer the one reliable joy in a transient and difficult life. But also, in this depressed town, soccer brings together those who might otherwise live in isolation from one another. Before, during, and after games, players ask each other where they learned to play soccer, what the rules are in their country, and what the conditions were.

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