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June 3, 2006

National deaf soccer team out to win fans in Pensacola

From:, FL - Jun 2, 2006

Ryan Clark

Being a deaf athlete has been a challenge most of their lives, but the players on the U.S. Men's Deaf Soccer Team have a new, more difficult task at hand.

Their goal now is to help convert America into a soccer nation.

They can take another step today when they take on an all-star team of college and former professional players from the Pensacola Bay Area at Ashton Brosnaham Park.

"I think many people under-appreciate the combination of skill and physical fitness required to play the game well," said forward Mark Sorokin, a member of the 2005 squad that went to the Deaflympics in Australia. "Usually, all we see is the neighborhood recreational game with balls taking bad bounces and children learning how to play."

Created in 1924, the Deaflympics allows those who are deaf or hard of hearing a chance to compete for their nation. Sorokin and his teammates finished ninth in Australia. Their goal is to win a gold medal at the 2008 World Championships.

They start the journey to Greece in Pensacola, home of their coach, Ken McDonald, who was an assistant on the women's team that won gold in Australia.

"Since it's not one of the major American cities, getting here is pretty difficult," said McDonald, whose lived in Pensacola for two years as a member of the Pensacola Football Club coaching staff. "Because I felt like Pensacola has welcomed me with open arms, I felt bringing the team here was like a bit of a payback." McDonald's team isn't dreaming of the World Cup, which begins June 9 in Germany. But they still have championship aspirations.

But before taking on some of the best deaf players in the world, the team will take on a squad comprised of University of West Florida players and former pros.

Some of the players on the all-star team are former Pensacola Flyers' player Corey Caplan, former News Journal All-Area Player of the Year C.D. Harris, and current Argonauts Brian Puckett and Graham Ervin.

Today's game is free, but the team is looking to raise $30,000 for a trip to England next year. The trip would be a measuring stick of sorts. Great Britain won gold at the last Deaflympics.

"Finding money to support the team is not my problem, but I just feel obliged to try and help my board bring in money," McDonald said. "I really want local people to help finance my camps here in Pensacola, but a big sponsor would finance the trip to England as well."

With players from all over the country, one of the team's goals is to win a few fans among the deaf community.

"We're just basically hoping to influence deaf people's feelings about the sport of soccer," Sorokin said. "You could say in a similar way to that of the (U.S.) national team, spread the love of the game and show that it can be played by anyone at anytime."

© 1997-2006 the Pensacola News Journal, Pensacola Florida.