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'A big, big soccer event': Area youth invited to learn soccer alongside Germany's best

BEMIDJI -- It would be like learning baseball from the Yankees.

Youth soccer players are invited this week to further develop their skills alongside players from Germany's Bayern München team, which won the 2013 European Cup.

"The kids who are passionate about the sport in the first place, they're thrilled anytime for things like this (clinics)," said Rick Toward, coach of the boys soccer team at Bemidji High School, "but when you start throwing names around like Bayern München, that type of thing, it's huge. They're very excited."

Concordia Language Villages' Waldsee, the German village, has been chosen as one of six U.S. sites to host Bayern München players as they offer a daylong soccer clinic for area youth aged 12-16.

The local event, to be held 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, is free and open to youth soccer players interested in putting their "fussball" (soccer) skills to the test. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. at Waldsee and a free German lunch will follow.

"It's the idea of developing international understanding through soccer," said Dan Hamilton, Waldsee dean.

Hamilton said Bayern München players each developed a skills test for their position. Goalies, for interested, developed a goalie test; the striker developed a strikers' test; the defensemen developed a defenseman's test.

Participating youth will have the chance to go through these stations. Afterward, they will obtain a certificate with the corresponding Bayern München player's picture on it. The winner at each station will receive a Bayern München jersey.

Bayern Munich is the biggest and most successful club in Germany, according to the ESPN FC website. The club has won a record 23 national titles and five European Cups.

"If they are not the best team, then they certainly are one of the best, soccer teams in the world," Hamilton said.

Hamilton has reached out to Toward, who also is involved with Bemidji Youth Soccer, and Toward connected with Kelly Schoonover, the coach of the BHS girls team. Together, they plan to bring two full busloads of Bemidji soccer players to the CLV clinic.

"We're really excited," Toward said. "Those guys are world champions, phenomenal players."

The event is open to anyone, Hamilton said, stressing that CLV will accommodate any number of youth that shows up. Not only are the roughly 100 Waldsee villagers taking part, but all of the villagers throughout CLV have also been invited to participate. Eight German coaches will be on hand, and CLV will provide about 70 staff to help keep things organized.

"It will be a big, big soccer event," he said.

The clinics are possible due to a collaboration of Bayern München, the German Embassy to the U.S., the CLV, and Auf Balhöhe, a German youth soccer organization. This year marks the pilot program of the soccer clinics, which also are being held in Portland, Ore.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Chicago and Mount Prospect, Ill.; and Ellenville, N.Y.

Hamilton said the hope is that the pilot program will prove successful and provide an opportunity for Waldsee to join as a U.S. partner in Bayern München's worldwide soccer program, which each may or June brings talented soccer youth to Munich to meet and train with the team.

If you go

What: The Bayern München soccer challenge, a soccer clinic with professional soccer players from Germany

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday; registration begins at 9:30 a.m.

Where: Waldsee, the German language village at Concordia Language Villages

Cost: Free