Moscow Stadium 'Luiniki,' (left) is the largest stadium in Russia seating up to 100,000 people. Moscow hosted the Olympics in 1980, which were boycotted by many countries including the U.S. following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
PROVO -- Three incoming freshmen for the BYU women's soccer team have been recruited from Utah club teams to play in the Moscow-Utah Youth Games in Russia next month.
The team traveling to Moscow includes freshmen Amberlea Anderson and Courtney Asay -- both played for Celtic Storm, and Bobbie Tillotson -- who played for Sparta. Now the three will have the opportunity of playing on the same team with 12 other top soccer players from the Utah Olympic Development Program (ODP).
"The 2002 Olympics left many lasting legacies. Among the most important of these is the opportunity for our youth to [participate] at world-class facilities. Now our best youth competitors will have the opportunity to compete on the international stage," stated Governor Mike Leavitt in a press release from the State of Utah Governor's Office. Last October Leavitt traveled to Moscow to sign an agreement with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov establishing the Moscow-Utah Youth Games. Under the agreement about 300 Utah athletes 18 and younger will travel to Russia in July for the summer games including baseball, basketball, gymnastics, tennis, track and field, swimming, wrestling and soccer. In exchange, about 100 Muscovite teenagers will come to Utah for winter sports competitions in February 2004, marking the second anniversary of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.
These three freshmen will have the opportunity to play against Russian National teams before joining the Cougars this fall. "I'm pleased that Amberlea, Bobbie and Courtney, will have the opportunity of traveling and playing competitive soccer together before joining our team," said Jennifer Rockwood, head coach for BYU Women's soccer. "Playing Russian National teams should polish their skills and prepare them for the competition they will see at the collegiate level."
The Moscow-Utah Youth Games will start with an opening ceremony on July 19th and conclude with closing ceremony on July 26th. While in Russia, the athletes will stay in the former Olympic Athletes Village and compete in many of the 1980 Olympic facilities. "We will practice with our opponents four different days and play three scheduled games," said Greg Maas, Technical Director for Utah Youth Soccer Association. "We compete against U16, U17 and U18 Russian National Teams," Asay said. Traveling with the women's team is Greg Maas, Technical Director; Mandy Brettingen, Assistant; and Eric Landon, Goalkeeper Assistant.
"It's a great opportunity for a select group of youth (that) we want to be competitive," according to a previous statement by Utah High School Activities Association, Executive Director, Evan Excell.
Final selection of the youth for the women's soccer team was made by Maas selecting the top five players from the Firebirds, Sparta and Celtic Storm club teams. Of the 15 girls headed to Moscow there will be 13 field players and two keepers. "These are tremendous soccer players. The top players in the state," said Maas.
"I'm excited to be on a strong team of girls that I have typically competed against. I look forward to making new friends," said Asay.
Much of the required expenses to support the 300 traveling youth were covered by a generous donation from Neways International, an innovator in the health and cosmetic industry, headquartered in Springville, Utah. The youth are expected to raise and additional $400 each to complete the funding. "One would pay more for a weekend at a California soccer camp. The $400 covers airfare, meals, hotel, tourism -- everything," Maas concluded.