State Games Soccer Tournaments Draw Thousands to Meridian

By: Louis Montesi, III
By: Louis Montesi, III

Three billion soccer fans from across the planet have been watching Brazil's hand at hosting the World Cup. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, the sport they call "the beautiful game" has brought hundreds of athletes to Meridian.

Of all the sports taking place during the State Games of Mississippi, none draws more athletes to town than soccer. Officials say at least 2,000 "footballers" are competing at six different parks across the Queen City, including Q.V. Sykes park, Meridian Community College and the Jaycee Soccer Complex.

Over 120 teams are competing in divisions from U-8 to U-16. Each of those divisions is divided into "elite" and "all-star rec" classifications. Volunteers from NAS Meridian were among those who had to battle the heat while helping out at the event.

State Games Director of Soccer Tristan Rowell said it's no surprise that soccer weekend is chosen for the games' opening ceremonies.

"That's usually why the opening ceremonies [were] last night. It's always on the weekend for soccer, because that's when everybody comes in," said Rowell. "So we really have a good crowd out here, and we've got six different venues going today all over the city, so we're spread out everywhere."

Sarah May, a volunteer from NAS Meridian and a native of Rochester, New York, said she had fun and was surprised by how big the crowd was, but the heat was difficult to handle.

"It takes a lot [to get used to weather]. Like, I remember the first section when we had to take attendance," said May "I almost passed out from the humidity because I'm from New York where it's like in the 50's all the time, but it takes a lot of getting used to. "

All soccer tournaments conclude Sunday afternoon with bronze and gold medal matches.

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