WORCESTER, Mass. – Captains of teams participating in the 12th annual Worcester World Cup (WWC) games met Aug. 3 at the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center to discuss game rules and to determine matchups.
The soccer tournament, scheduled this year for Aug. 11 through 13 at Foley Stadium’s Commerce Field, is a series of matches between teams representing Worcester’s diverse immigrant community. The event, which is organized by about a dozen volunteers, engages Worcester-based soccer (or football, as the sport is called in most other countries) players and fans from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the U.S.A. This year, there are 19 teams, 16 male and 13 female.
Even though not affiliated with any official soccer leagues in the U.S., the games and players seem to draw a wide respect from professionals. George Cortes, of the United States Soccer Federation said that the referees would actually be assigned by USSF.
“It usually isn’t allowed,” Cortes, himself a professional referee, said, referring to USSF-assigned referees calling games of unaffiliated leagues like the WWC, but the organization made an exception in this case.
“Worcester is becoming known to people from other cities” for the games, Mushtaq Alzahiri, who was born in Iraq and now lives in Worcester, said. His team won the championship a year ago, and he is eager to defend it. Soccer, he said, “is my passion.”
Of course, soccer is a sport, and there are rivalries.
“We’re coming back to take what is ours,” Charles Allison, president of the Liberia Association of Worcester County and a partisan of the Liberia team, said, smiling. He noted that, of the previous 11 tournaments, “we are the six-time champions.”
But the tournament aims to help unite Worcester’s diverse immigrant communities as well. “This is important because it shows immigrants coming together and uniting themselves,” Allison said. “This is about immigrants, and this is about camaraderie to make the city better.”
While the captains met, organizers went over the rules, all typical to soccer: the clock would not stop for anything, yellow cards and red cards, and so on.
The rules are designed to encourage sportsmanship, said Laura, one of the organizers. “We’re celebrating in a fun, safe space,” she said.
WWC is a project of and fundraiser for Cultural Exchange Through Soccer, a city organization that serves as “a vehicle to develop young leaders,” Laura explained.
Albert, another volunteer organizer, said that the organization has a youth group, which “is to bring kids from different backgrounds – I’m from the Congo – together, let them play, tour colleges” and develop leadership in other ways.
The team captains drew papers randomly, each of which had a letter written on it, representing a time slot. As the time slots were filled in by Tereza Ngendahoruri, a volunteer, on the board, it became apparent who would be playing whom. The schedule is:
Worcester World Cup – Men’s Bracket
Friday, Aug. 11:
5.30: Brazil v. Ghana
6.45: U.S.A v. Nigeria
8.00: Guatemala v. Honduras
Saturday, Aug. 12:
9.30: Kenya v. Somalia
10.45: Togo v. Myanmar
1.15: Albania v. El Salvador
2.30: Jamaica v. Iraq
3.45: Ecuador v. Liberia
Worcester World Cup – Women’s Bracket
Sunday, Aug. 13
10:15 AM Game 1: USA vs Ecuador
12:30 PM Game 2: USA vs Italy
02:45 PM Game 3: Ecuador vs Italy
Tickets are six dollars and allow admission to all games.