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Friday, September 29, 2006

New Hampshire Does Have a Soccer Team

New Hampshire Does Have a Soccer Team

By Jim Jeannotte on Thursday, June 29, 2006.

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On the off-chance that you've been swept up in World Cup Soccer Fever, you can watch professional soccer here in the Granite State.

The New Hampshire Phantoms has been competing for a dozen years.

Trouble is, it seems very few people are even paying attention.

NHPR's Sports Correspondent Jim Jeannotte has the story.

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Web resources:

New Hampshire Phantoms website
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see more >>THE WORLD CUP SOCCER TOURNAMENT HAS REACHED THE QUARTERFINALS.

FOR WEEKS, SOCCER FANS RANGING INTO THE BILLIONS WORLD-WIDE, HAVE BEEN AVIDLY FOLLOWING THIS QUADRENNIAL EVENT.

AND SEAN CAREY, THE COACH OF THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PHANTOMS OF THE PROFESSIONAL UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE, BELIEVES AMERICANS ARE WATCHING THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR SPORT.

Sean Carey:
(Track 64 - :10 sec) “I think it’s attracting attention. I teach elementary school for a living. We had a field day today and we had parents, moms, dads asking about World Cup.”
BUTT/BYTE
(track 66 - ) :03 sec) “I think overall the interest level is good.”

HOWEVER, EVEN WITH A BOOST FROM THE WORLD CUP, PHANTOMS GENERAL MANAGER JIM DEDEUS ISN’T OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE GAME’S FUTURE, ESPECIALLY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Jim Dedeus
(Track 9 - :12 sec) “I’m 58 years old. When I was 30 years old, I said in twenty years soccer is going to be a sport that is going to be competing with other major sports. I was so wrong.”
BUTT/BYTE
(Track 11 - :16 sec) “The sport of soccer will never go head to head with the NFL or NBA, or baseball. But I think we can find our own niche. We’ll be a small part of the sports world in New Hampshire where we’ll be able to take care of ourselves.”

OVER THE PAST DECADE, PROFESSIONAL MINOR LEAGUE SPORTS HAVE BECOME PART OF THE NEW HAMPSHIRE LANDSCAPE.

THE MANCHESTER MONARCHS LEAD THE AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE IN ATTENDANCE.

THE NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER CATS ATTRACT BIG CROWDS FOR THEIR DOUBLE-A BASEBALL CONTESTS.

AND THE MANCHESTER WOLVES AVERAGE OVER 7,000 FANS PER GAME IN ARENA FOOTBALL.

Cheerleaders sound effect
(Track 48 - “s-c-o-r-e score, phantoms score)

BUT IT’S A DIFFERENT STORY FOR THE STRUGGLING PHANTOMS.

GENERAL MANAGER JIM DEDEUS:

Jim Dedeus
(Track 7 - :13 sec) “If we were drawing two to three thousand, we would be happy. But at the moment, we’re drawing more like the 500 mark. There are a few games throughout the year, we draw a thousand to 12-hundred.”

IN FACT, IN THE 90S, THERE WERE YEARS THE PHANTOMS AVERAGED WELL OVER 2,000 FANS PER GAME.

BUT RECENTLY, THOSE NUMBERS HAVE FALLEN SUBSTANTIALLY.

MATT BRITO COMES FROM CAPE VERDE WEST AFRICA. HE TEACHES FOREIGN LANGUAGES AND COACHES SOCCER AT NEW HAMPTON SCHOOL.

HE ALSO PLAYS FOR THE PHANTOMS.

Matt Brito
(Track 22 - :17 sec) “In the past years, we definitely had bigger crowds. I’m not sure this year. One, the weather hasn’t been very helpful to us, and two the past two seasons, we didn’t win many games. So that doesn’t attract people.”

THE PHANTOMS HAVE POSTED SOME EARLY-SEASON WINS THIS YEAR, AND COACH CAREY THINKS MORE OF THE SAME WILL BRING THE FANS BACK.

Sean Carey:
(Track 60 - :15 sec) “”I’m hopeful that wins is what it takes. That’s what we’re aiming towards. Early in the season, we had a very small crowd in the rain. I had the players look at the stands. I said I want you to look over there now. This will be a reminder for you when we get the stands filled up because we’re doing so well.”

(Sound effect)
(Track # 30) “Now for your New Hampshire Phantoms. In goal,)

THERE ARE TWENTY PLAYERS ON THE PHANTOMS ROSTER. THREE PLAYED AT UNH, ONE AT SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE UNIVERSITY, ONE AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE AND TWO AT FRANKLIN PIERCE COLLEGE.

IN ADDITION TO GRADUATES FROM SEVERAL OTHER COLLEGES, THE ROSTER IS SPRINKLED WITH ATHLETES FROM ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, PORTUGAL, BARBADOS AND THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.

WHILE THEY ALL HAVE OTHER JOBS, MANY OF THE PHANTOM PLAYERS HAVE HOPES OF MOVING ON TO A HIGHER LEVEL OF PLAY.

THAT INCLUDES, GOALKEEPER MATT PARSONS OF EXETER, A 24-YEAR-OLD GRADUATE OF BENTLEY COLLEGE.

Matt Parsons
(Track 26 - :11 sec) “I definitely want to make it to the next level eventually. I’m a goalie and they say goalies get better as they get older. So I guess I have a couple of years ahead of me. Anybody who’s here want to be at the next level.”

THE NEXT LEVEL IS THE FIRST DIVISION OF THE UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE.

AND ABOVE THAT IS MLS, MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, THE NATION’S TOP-RANKED LEAGUE.

COACH CAREY SAYS THERE ISN’T MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PHANTOMS’ UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE SECOND DIVISION, AND THE TWO MORE PROFITABLE AND COMPETITIVE LEVELS ABOVE IT.

Sean Carey
(Track 62 - :20 sec) “To be honest with you, for a lot of the players, it’s a lucky break. We could put some of the players in a game for the Revolution tomorrow. You wouldn’t see a difference. Some of it is speed of play, speed of thought. Maybe they take one extra touch sometimes. Or they might be a little slow in their decision making.”

THE PHANTOMS ARE FUNDED BY CORPORATE SPONSORS, AS WELL AS BY THE PROFITS FROM A SUCCESSFUL YEAR-ROUND YOUTH SOCCER ACADEMY.

OVER 600 BOYS AND GIRLS PARTICIPATE ON YOUTH TEAMS AND IN YOUTH LEAGUES THROUGHOUT THE NORTHEAST.

FROM APRIL TO OCTOBER, A NEW INDOOR ARENA IN HAMPSTEAD HOUSES THE TEAMS, A SOCCER SCHOOL AND YOUTH CLINICS.

GENERAL MANAGER DEDEUS HOPES THIS INTRODUCTION OF SOCCER AT A YOUNG AGE WILL EVENTUALLY LEAD TO A LARGER FAN BASE THROUGHOUT NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Jim Dedeus
(Track 15 - ?sec) “We need to have grandfathers that played the game. When that happens, then you have the fathers, the sons and the kids are all playing. I mean we’re still a little ways away. But when we have that whole ladder there, that whole tree, family tree that was involved with the game, then we’ll see soccer flourish in New Hampshire.”

THE NEXT GAME FOR THE PHANTOMS IS FRIDAY EVENING AGAINST THEIR TOP LEAGUE RIVAL, THE WESTERN MASS PIONEERS.

GAME TIME IS AT 7:30 AT THE NEW GEORGE LARKIN FIELD ON THE CAMPUS OF SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE UNIVERSITY IN MANCHESTER.

(sound effect)
Track 54 - ? sec) “Phantoms goal scored by #25 Val Teixeira, his second of the night. Assisted by #39 Okeida”

FOR NHPR NEWS, I’M JIM JEANNOTTE

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