Mini a major

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, Last Updated: 6:53 AM ET

For the past 11 years the World Cup of soccer has played itself out in Edmonton in "mini" form.

For the past 100 years, the game itself has played out in Alberta.

"A lot of people are surprised by that, including people in our own organization," Mike Thome said yesterday of the anniversary of their 1909 founding date.

"We're certainly outside the mainstream of sports when you're talking about hockey and football."

The executive director of the Edmonton & District Soccer Association was on his way to the opening ceremonies of the EDSA's Mini World Cup, to kick off two weeks of area players kicking around a ball in the name of their ancestors.

Seventy-six teams represent 40 different countries across the age categories.

"Our rules state that (heritage-qualifying is) to be the player's parents or the player's grandparents. With that, there are some players that if their heritage country isn't represented, they are free to try out for another 'country.' "

Categories are age-designated, not skill-designated so the mini-WC features the best of local adult players. The tournament - like the World Cup, a round-robin followed by knockout stages - was first held in 1978, but not every year since. The women's portion started in 1999.

There are separate age categories for 45-and-up - with a special dispensation for the 'old' men.

"We have oxygen in every dressing room and crash-carts ready to go," joked Thome, of the category for which he admittedly qualifies.

The Mini World Cup takes place at Edmonton's South (Roper Rd.) and West (17415 106A Ave.) Soccer Centres. See edsa.org for schedule details.


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