Local faces part of scene at regional soccer tournament

Published 10:03 am Monday, June 21, 2010

SOUTH POINT — There will be more than 4,500 players and their families descending on Barboursville, W.Va., in a couple of weeks when the 2010 U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Championships come to the Tri-State.

Opening ceremony at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards Stadium is set for July 1 with games starting the next day. All teams will play July 2 through July 4 with elimination games July 5 and July 6.

And right in the middle of those crowds of soccer fans at the Barboursville fields will be Paula, Michael and Evan Vega, either working as volunteers or in Evan’s case being one of those players.

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It will be the second time for Paula and Michael of South Point to donate their time to the championship games. They were there when the competition came to the area last year for the first time to the Tri-State.

“I supervised the field,” Paula said. “You have to report with a walkie talkie with the scores. And I directed traffic. That looks easy, but it was not easy. It was a little challenging, but where I was needed that was where I jumped in.

“It is wonderful having all these people here. We all benefit financially from it, the Huntington businesses and surrounding areas.”

Last summer the tournament brought in more than $12,000,000 to West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Southern Ohio.

As far as Southern Ohio, close to $25,000 came into the area solely from money spent on lodging, according to the Cabell Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Total expenditures for dining in the Tri-State came in at $4,020,000; shopping at $3,618,000; and entertainment at $2,412,000.

Michael Vega is a Huntington, W.Va., -based physician who grew up playing left wing for the soccer team at Huntington St. Joseph. He also coached his son, Evan, in his early years at the YMCA youth soccer program.

“I believe soccer is a non-stop sport,” Michael said. “It is always in motion. In football, you have a first down and then you stop. In soccer everybody plays.”

In fact, Michael is such a soccer fan that he gave this interview in between watching France and Uruguay battle it out on one of the televised matches for the World Cup.

“This is doubly exciting,” he said. “The World Cup is going on at the same time, if you want to see good soccer.”

Fifteen-year-old Evan, who plays for the West Virginia Wizards, had worked with his teammates to get them to qualify for the championships last spring. However Evan was in Europe for the championship and couldn’t play. This July things are a lot different as he expects to take the field on July 2 with the Wizards playing center midfielder.

“This is awesome,” he said about the upcoming games. “You feel like coming from such a small town, you actually feel like you’re doing something, actually competing against these guys.”

Evan started playing about 11 years ago, first around home, then at the Y. He’s hopeful the Wizards will keep going through the elimination games that end on July 6.

That winner will go on to play teams from the other regional competitions.

As to the impact the advice his dad gives him on his game has, Evan responds candidly.

“He tries, but I don’t really listen.”