COLUMBIA — For alumni of the Columbia College soccer team, the annual Show-Me State Games is more than just a soccer tournament. The games serve as a chance to remember and honor the group’s late teammate and friend Kjell-Einar Teien.
Kjell FC, a team made up almost entirely of Cougars alumni, has become an annual fixture at the games. Organized by former Cougar Ben Boehner of Parkville, the team sports jerseys with the letters “KJ” positioned over a map of Teien’s native Norway as a symbol of remembrance. The team took on Teien’s name in 2005 when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“With the way I feel about him, and the way everybody feels about him, it was kind of a no-brainer,” Boehner said. “Let’s name it after Kjell.”
Two years later, Teien died in Norway. He was 28 years old.
John Klein, who has served as head soccer coach at Columbia College since 2000, said the loss of Teien has had a major impact on everyone involved in the program.
“In soccer, we all come together from all over the world,” Klein said. “To lose one of our boys who was so young was really devastating. It’s just really sad that from somebody so strong, life can be taken at such a young age.”
Klein, as well as several of Teien’s teammates, used the word "strong" to describe him. He is remembered for strength both as an athlete and leader.
“First of all, he was just this enormous physical presence,” Klein said. “He was so strong, and he ran our backfield. I relied on him to carry our group forward and to compete at the highest level every day.”
Teien came to Columbia College in 1999 and served as captain for three of his four seasons with the Cougars. He started all 89 games his team played during his time with the Cougars. More impressive to Klein, however, is the fact that Teien never missed a practice.
“He just never had an injury severe enough to keep him out,” Klein said. “Kjell came to practice every single day, and he gave his best effort every single day, and I don’t know that I can say that about any other player in the history of the program.”
Boehner also remembers the intensity with which Teien approached practice and how it made the players around him better.
"He set the tone for every practice," Boehner said. "He let us know how we had to act, how we had to prepare for matches, how we had to prepare for practice even. He was literally the best teammate I ever had."
This weekend, former teammates of Teien traveled back to Columbia to reunite as Kjell FC. Members of the team have come from as far as California and Toronto to suit up alongside their former college teammates and to honor their captain.
Teammate Morten Crosby, who grew up just miles away from Teien in Norway, traveled from Ohio for the games.
“We still gather around his spirit here,” Crosby said. “If you knew Kjell, he’s like a family member.”