Sunday, July 27, 2008 | 9:17 p.m. CDT
COLUMBIA — An engineering technician from Jamaica. A chef from Mexico. An accountant born and raised in Columbia. A swiss stockbroker. They all donned orange jerseys Sunday to play soccer together in the Show-Me State Games.
After three hot days of competition, MAC United, outplayed 14 teams to claim the gold medal in the over-30 men’s division. All of the players now live in Columbia, but most grew up in other countries and cities.
“This is what soccer is all about,” Adam Booth, a Boone County juvenile officer, said. “A bunch of diverse guys getting together and having a good time.”
The team has been playing together for about four years.
Booth said the roster includes two men from Nigeria, a few from Mexico, a man from Uruguay and a few that have grown up in Columbia.
“Them playing soccer is a good outlet away from work and a chance to take off the suits and ties,” said Amy Messner, whose husband, Rick, plays on the team.
The team plays at least twice a week at the Missouri Athletic Center or in outdoor leagues, including an international league in Jefferson City that includes players from Canada, South America, Mexico and Africa who now live in mid-Missouri.
Kal Shellah, who plays with MAC United on Wednesday nights, said that the team has become a great way for people new to the area who like to play soccer to become part of the community.
“Playing at the MAC with these guys has been an excellent social event for me,” Shellah said. “It would have taken much longer to make friends if it wasn’t for these guys playing in the leagues.”
Shellah, originally from Jordan, has lived in several other cities across the country and traveled around the world but said he has never seen a group of guys have as much camaraderie as the team does.
Although Shellah didn’t play, he was there on the sidelines cheering on his friends for most of the games during the three-day tournament.
As part of the games, MAC United played teams from across the state. They played two teams from St. Louis, a team from Sedalia and a St. Charles team. In the finals, MAC United narrowly beat a Springfield team, 1-0. Martin Pereyra, who is originally from Mexico, scored the team’s only goal.
Chris Viers, the director of soccer and events for the MAC, helped organize 13 teams of all ages playing in the Show-Me State Games including MAC United. Seven of these teams received medals at the games, Viers said.
“These games are great competitive outlet for players and a pleasant experience for all the athletes,” Viers said.
Because the teams are made up of all ages, Viers said it was a great chance for a lot of the younger players to see their coaches and people who work at the MAC play.
“We had a couple of 6-year-olds come out to watch a lot of the over-30 men’s games to see their coaches play and learn from experienced players,” Viers said.