Islands | The pan-Pacific soccer paradise

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Hawai‘i’s “Mr. Soccer,” Jack Sullivan, has defied convention on multiple occasions: by relocating from the mainland in 1957, two years before the Islands achieved statehood, and then switching his coaching interests from baseball to soccer—a game he has never played. Uncomfortable with seeing young baseball players living in fear of mistakes, Sullivan gravitated toward soccer, where such fears were eliminated: “You don’t have these negative things for timid kids. It creates responsible people with self-worth and the confidence to play other sports” (see 7 Jun 06).

Sullivan is enshrined in the Hawaiian and American Youth Soccer Association halls of fame as a grassroots provider who helped make Hawai‘i a soccer success. Far from defying convention, soccer on the Islands is mainstream, with a year-round youth soccer schedule and active adult leagues, including the Women’s Island Soccer Association (see Michael Tsai, “Can the Pan-Pacific Soccer Tourney Deliver?Honolulu Advertiser, Feb 18).

The Women’s Island Soccer Association launched in Oct 1972 with five teams: Huahine, Kilohana, Kuhina Nui, Nick’s Chicks and Tahiti Vahines. (WISA)

The sport’s grassroots credibility has helped lure Soccer United Marketing to base the first Pan-Pacific Soccer Championships at Aloha Stadium. The tournament begins Feb 20 and features L.A. Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, Sydney FC and Gamba Osaka. As a geographical nexus linking these relatively recent professional soccer competitions—the J-League, K-League, A-League and MLS—Hawai‘i might remain an attractive destination for training and even the occasional international.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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