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Largo soccer camp kids watch the World Cup with Tampa Bay Rowdies players

For the kids in the front row, it couldn't get any better than this.

Nonstop soccer.

Air conditioning and a big screen TV.

And an opportunity to watch World Cup games with players from the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

At Pinellas Indoor Soccer Academy in Largo, 24 boys and girls spent the week with professional soccer players during the Pro Academy Soccer Camp hosted by the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

With Perry Van Der Beck, technical director for the team at the helm, players held demonstrations each day. The indoor soccer camp is part of the Rowdies' effort to go out into the community.

"We are holding camps at several different locations this summer,'' Van Der Beck said. "But this is a great facility, and it is nice to be holding an indoor program during the summer.''

On Wednesday, campers, ranging in age from 9 to 14, got to watch the historic U.S.-Algeria World Cup game with the big guys.

When USA forward Landon Donovan kicked in the winning goal for a 1-0 victory in the final seconds, the west end of the Pinellas Indoor Soccer Academy erupted in shouts of "GOAL!'' "OH, YEAH!'' and "USA! USA!"

Sitting with the campers was Julian Valentin, Rowdies captain.

"Wow,'' Valentin said after handing out about a dozen high-fives. "I definitely wished a U.S. goal could've come sooner for my heart's sake, but what an unbelievable game. It's one I'll remember all my life.''

Chris Charles, a retired Tampa Bay Rowdie from 1992 who is working with the Rowdies summer camps program, also felt the United States had several chances early on to score.

"The U.S. was in position several times, but, as I told the kids during the half, Algeria is a very organized team,'' he said.

For many of the players, the indoor soccer camp is the first time they've played the sport between four walls and on artificial grass.

"I've learned a lot this week,'' said Paul Gyorkos, a 13-year-old who attends Seminole Middle School. "The Tampa Bay Rowdies have helped me understand indoor soccer. It is definitely more running and more technical.''

Charles, who grew up playing street soccer in Trinidad, stressed to the kids that whether it's indoor or outdoor, "soccer is for everyone. It has no name or language,'' he said.

"Players will leave here improved. They can't help but be better because indoor is faster, and they will be sharper.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at pcastillo@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4163.

Pinellas Indoor Soccer Academy

Where: 611 Commerce Drive, Largo

Special events: The academy is holding summer camps for different ages throughout the summer. During the week of July 26-30, another Pro Academy Soccer Camp, for ages 9 and up, will be held. Although the Tampa Bay Rowdies will not be the official host, members of the team will visit throughout the week.

Cost: $100 (Fun Sport Camp), $125 (Ultimate Soccer Camp) and $225 (Pro Academy Soccer Camp).

For more information: Visit www.pinellasindoor.com or call (727) 585-4625.

Largo soccer camp kids watch the World Cup with Tampa Bay Rowdies players 06/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 25, 2010 5:07pm]
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