Soccer 'kid' celebrates the best of soccer coming to St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

Soccer 'kid' celebrates the best of soccer coming to St. Louis

Aug 7, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I am a kid from north St. Louis. Actually I am no longer a kid but when it comes to soccer, there is always a kid inside me wanting to get back on the field to compete.

As we played our neighborhood games of soccer many years ago, we chose the names of soccer stars we knew through the soccer magazines of our time. Those heroes of my youth had very different names -- like Di Stefano, Puskas or Facchetti -- and they came alive in those magazine photographs.

Today, the stars of soccer are familiar to youth and fans around the world through the magic of video. What we only imagined in my youth can now be seen through high definition television images and on the Internet any day of the year. Millions of fans get closer to their favorite players through soccer video games. And now, all of St. Louis will have an opportunity to see the “stars of the pitch” live on the natural turf in the Edward Jones Dome.

When Real Madrid and Inter Milan compete at the Edward Jones Dome at 1 p.m. Aug. 10, it will be the second international match to come to St. Louis this summer. More than a hundred thousand soccer spectators in less then 90 days, and who said St. Louis can’t support professional soccer?

These are among the elite teams in all of professional sports. Both teams have played their entire history in the top flight of their countries. Inter Milan has competed in the Italian Series A and Real Madrid in Spanish La Liga. Inter Milan has won 18 Italian Series A titles, seven Coppa Italia titles, and three European Championships, the last in 2010. Real Madrid is one of the most successful sports franchises in the world with a record 32 Spanish La Liga titles, 18 Copa del Rey titles, 9 Spanish Super Cups and 9 European Cup/UEFA Championships. Real Madrid is currently the most valuable sports franchise in the world -- with a value by some estimates topping $4 billion.

The heroes of my youth played for these teams

We would imitate the most celebrated attacking defender of Inter Milan - Giacinto Facchetti. Facchetti was considered to be among the best defenders to ever play the game. If we imitated a forward, we would be one of the two most famous teammates for Real Madrid, Alfredo Di Stéfano or Ferenc Puskás. These two international stars recorded remarkable accomplishments while leading the team to five consecutive European Cup Championships between 1956-1960. The goal scoring combination of Di Stefano and Puskas was formidable

"What is past is prologue." The great players of the past for Real Madrid and Inter Milan have set the destinies of today’s stars. Javier Zanetti is the captain and the most celebrated player for Inter. He holds the record for the highest all-time number of appearances by a non-Italian born player for an Italian club and his 834 official matches for the club places him first on Inter's all-time appearances list. Esteban Cambiasso and Fredy Guarin control the midfield and are two on Inter’s most skillful players. Rodrigo Palacio was the team’s leading scorer this past season and always a threat to score

The most dynamic player on the field will be Cristiano Ronaldo. He is considered by many to be the most exciting player in the world today. When Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in 2009, he became the most expensive soccer player in the world. His contract is worth $14.4 million a year and has a $1.3 billion buy-out clause. He reached the milestone of 100 goals for Real Madrid in his first 93 matches breaking the previous record set by my childhood favorite, Ferenc Puskás. Ronaldo has averaged 1.01 goals a game in La Liga.

In addition to Ronaldo, watch for the newest star for Real Madrid #23 Isco. He is the 21-year-old emerging star, and this is an opportunity to see him play in person early in his career. Number 23 is special to the fans of Real Madrid, as it was worn by international superstar David Beckham during his successful years with the Spanish club.

My childhood heroes of Di Stefano, Puskas and Facchetti will always be part my inner soccer fantasies. As a fan, the thrill of seeing the elite players of today in my hometown of St. Louis is priceless. On Aug. 10 we will be treated to the world's most popular sport and the athletes who are the heroes of soccer-playing youth around the world. A stadium filled with more than 50,000 fanatical fans will once again put the world on notice that soccer is alive and thriving here in the heartland of America. See you there!

Jack Galmiche is the President and CEO of the Nine Network of Public Media (KETC Channel 9). He played on two NCAA Championship teams at Saint Louis University and professionally for the St. Louis Stars of the North American Soccer League.