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Hoover samples Argentina soccer

Soccer-crazy Argentina shared some of its passion for futbolwith Brookhaven’s Amy Hoover and her Alabama Olympic Developmentteammates last week. Hoover joined the squad on late-notice andenjoyed the international experience but the food in Buenos Arieswas a difficult adjustment.

Recognized as an all-star soccer standout, Hoover has played forAOD teams from South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.Obviously, she gets a kick out of soccer.

“They (AOD) e-mailed my dad (Alvin) and asked if I wanted to playwith them,” said Hoover. She doesn’t take a break from the sportuntil the middle of July.

Hoover, an athletic 5-foot-5 scholar/athlete, has made a verbalcommitment to sign a soccer scholarship with Mississippi StateUniversity. She’s near the top of her class at BHS, maintaining anear 4.0 GPA, mainly in college prep classes.

There are 24 professional soccer (futbol) teams in the 13-millionpopulation city of Buenos Aires. It is the highest concentration ofteams in any city in the world. With the World Cup competitiongoing strong, the AOD team witnessed the unbridled passiondisplayed by the citizens.

Hoover and her Under-17 teammates drove to Atlanta where they beganthe 11-hour flight to Buenos Aires. “We couldn’t sleep. We were tooexcited.”

The AOD is coached by Julie Davis Carlson, the Jacksonville State(Ala.) University women’s soccer coach. The select team, composedof players from all corners of Alabama, didn’t have an opportunityto practice together before leaving the states.

“The night we got there, we went to an indoor training facility,”said Hoover. “We practiced . We went from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.the next night without sleep.”

The 13-member squad became good friends in a short period of time.”We all got along really well. I didn’t know anybody, not even thecoach.”

Hoover said Coach Carlson was patient. “She didn’t have hardly anytime to work with us as a team.”

The exhibition began against the Boca Juniors and they battled to ascoreless draw. They played the Argentina National Team, composedof players age 17-21, and lost 10-0.

Hoover recalled the experience. “It was pretty brutal. They werevery fast and technical. They had a 6-5 who was very fast. And theyhad a girl about 4-10 who was just as good.”

She said there was heavy security at the training facility that isused by the National men’s and women’s teams.

Boca wanted a rematch and prevailed 3-1 in the third game of theexhibition series. They teams exchanged T-Shirts. The AOD broughtgoodie bags and the hosts gave them team emblems askeepsakes.

“The players were friendly,” said Hoover. “On the field they wereintense. They were speaking Spanish so we didn’t know what theywere saying.”

Hoover said her team had a National trainer work with them for afew hours. “He was very inspirational and he coached with passionfor the game. He taught us techniques.”

“Nino (trainer) said you have to have Jesus Christ in your heartand soccer in your blood to be a good soccer player.”

The AOD team witnessed the celebration after Argentina beat Mexicoin the Round of 16. Citizens swarmed the streets and celebrated thevictory.

During Argentina’s next match against Germany the AOD joined therevelry, wearing national colors with crazy hats and painting theirfaces. The game was watched on a large video screen in the squareoutside their hotel.

Unlike many South American countries, Argentina doesn’t have astrong baseball tradition. Soccer and horse racing are the favoritesports, plus a form of basketball played on horseback.

Taking a break from soccer, the AOD team rode three hours on a carferry across the bay to Uruguay and ate lunch at a restaurant inMontevideo.

Hoover said she dearly missed her daily breakfast menu of pancakesor grits, plus bacon and eggs. “They eat ham and cheese forbreakfast. The bacon there tastes like beef jerky.”

Upon her return to Atlanta, Hoover’s first stop was the CrackerBarrel Restaurant where she enjoyed grits and eggs.

“Amy hit the Taco Bell for her next meal,” laughed her father. TheHoovers are a close-knit family. Alvin and Nancy devote theirweekends to soccer, taking Amy and her older sister Katie tonumerous soccer tournaments.

Amy and Katy both played for the Mandeville, La. Lakers, a UnitedStates Youth Soccer Association select team that travels across thesoutheastern states. Katy will begin practice for her second yearwith MSU Lady Bulldogs next month. She is majoring in chemicalengineering.

In the classroom, Amy also excels. Her favorite subjects arechemistry, trigonometry and pre-calculus.