Women’s football | From Amish heartland, FC Indiana builds ‘multicultural vision’

Lafayette, Indiana | FC Indiana in four years has become a force in women’s club soccer in the United States, winning two Women’s Premier Soccer League titles and one U.S. Open Cup. But despite origins within a Midwest Amish agricultural enclave, its influence extends worldwide, illustrated by its high standing, currently third, in one global ranking and frequent links with high-profile international players such as Women’s World Cup stars Marta and Cristiane of Brazil, Cynthia Uwak of Nigeria and Inka Grings of Germany.

Some of FC Indiana’s multicultural talent—now headed for the W-League playoffs starting Jul 25—gathers for a 2008 preseason photo opportunity: top row, left to right, Ria Percival (NZL), Veronica Phewa (RSA), Christie Shaner (USA), Fatima Leyva (MEX), Kristin Luckenbill (USA), Kelly Parker (CAN), Laura Del Rio (ESP); bottom row, left to right: Lena Mosebo (RSA), Aivi Luik (AUS), Julianne Sitch (USA). (Photo courtesy PDA | FC Indiana)

The story of this juggernaut begins in the north central Indiana town of Goshen (pop. 30,000), where horse-drawn buggies vie with sport-utility vehicles for right of way. Goshen lies at the center of Indiana’s Amish and Mennonite communities, Anabaptist Christian denominations with roots in 16th-century Europe. Some congregations shun modernity, avoiding electricity and telephones in the home, and use horses for farming and transportation.

Against this placid background, FC Indiana in Jun 04 played its first game, a 1–0 defeat of an Australian national team then preparing for the Olympic Games in Greece. In 2005, FC Indiana joined the WPSL, won the league championship and added the domestic cup. What has always differentiated FC Indiana is its ability to attract talented players, many from overseas. Coach Shek Borkowski had played soccer at the University of Akron, for the Canton Invaders of the American Indoor Soccer Association, as well as in the second division in his native Poland. Borkowski says that he and his coaches want players who buy into the club’s vision, regardless of nationality:

When you are evaluating you have to get players who represent the values of the club. At FC Indiana we have a multicultural vision. I like the commitment of the U.S. game, the pace and speed, but, coming from Europe, I like to add some technical values. What is good in soccer is that you don’t need to share the same language. A Russian, a German or a Mexican can play with an American if they both have the same vision. I think that our success stems from our environment in which we successfully fuse different soccer cultures and strengths.

Aivi Luik, Lena Mosabo, Ria Percival, Veronica Phewa and Fatima Leyva speak in FC Indiana offices before the 2008 season. “Here we just get the ball, go forward—quick,” says Mosabo. “That’s the difference from South Africa.” (9:03; © 2008 FC Indiana)

That philosophy also extends to Borkowski’s staff, which includes coaches from the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, Serbia and Bulgaria. In 2005, FC Indiana mixed internationals Paty Perez and Fatima Leyva of Mexico and Tasha St. Louis and Leslie Ann James of Trinidad and Tobago with American college players from the University of Kansas and Notre Dame. The side also brought in ex-WUSA defenders Julie and Nancy Augustyniak, who chose FC Indiana over Swedish and German clubs they had played for the previous year while waiting for the defunct WUSA to re-form.

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