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A Neighborhood Team In An International City

[Note:  In addition to my duties as Club Secretary of Steeple Sinderby Wanderers, I also play a similar role with its sister clubs:  Racing Winnebago and The Turtle Pond Armada.  Journal Entries regarding The Bago, as they are affectionately known, go here-  Trayvon Hollen]

Once upon a time, Celtic won the European Cup with a squad made up of players who grew up within ten miles of the stadium.  Of course, with the internationalization of football in the intervening 50 years, it is inconceivable that such a feat could be repeated today.  Fortunately, the Chairman of Racing Winnebago does not know the meaning of the word “inconceivable,” or many other words.

Accordingly, Racing Winnebago is built around a core  of players from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, most of whom are still 18 or 19.  Let’s meet them:

Curt “Big Cat” Gavin:  A gentle giant, Gavin generally relies on his fellows to do the thinking for him.  However, he is more than able to handle the running and, especially, the heading portions of the game.  Indeed, Gavin’s managed a prodigious 33 goals in just over two seasons, and recently received his first USA U-20 cap playing as a Forward Towards Wing.  However, he was bitterly disappointed to learn that this honor was not actually accompanied by an actual hat, which may have led to his going down with a calf strain in his debut match.

Nick “The Bull”  Chang:  While outsiders frequently think that Chang received his nickname due to his powerful frame and willingness to shove defenders out of the way to slot in rebounds, it is actually due to his pathological hatred of the color red.

Davie “The Viscount” Edler:  A natural trequartista, Edler’s regal countenance has been shaken lately by our rivals’ increasing adoption of man-marking tactics.  Nevertheless, he still has the occasional moment of glory- just the other day, he dazzled Chang with a series of stepovers, leading him to demand two ears and a tail.

Anibal “The Cannibal”  Arroyave:  The Luis Suarez of Washington Heights, Arroyave’s well-rounded skills and blazing pace make him a natural winger.

Parker “Bad Horse” Mitcham:  Also known as the “Thoroughbred of Sin” to the Bago faithful, Mitcham has more than a passing familiarity with the footballing dark arts.  Nevertheless, his maverick streak and slick finishing mean that he may be the ideal choice to lead the line for us in the years to come.

Jose Maria “El Aguila” Cuesta:  The most talented of the Baby Bagos, Joe Mary’s leaping ability makes him an ever-present threat on set pieces and he’s a deadly threat in his natural winger role.

Duke “Duke” Gilbertson:  A cautionary tale about choosing nicknames after one too many headers.  Our coaches believe that Gilbertson’s strong playmaking skills will make him our midfield dynamo once the Baby Bagos settle into their long-term roles.

Austin “Hobson’s” Choice:  Currently the terror of our youth academy, partly because of top-grade skills, but mostly of a playing style reminiscent of an overly caffeinated Roy Keane.  Choice has not yet shown the kind of specialized talents that the other Baby Bagos possess.  Nevertheless, he has a good shot at eventually becoming our central midfield enforcer.

Jonah “The Whale”  Jackson:  Another promising academy prospect, Jackson’s an inspiration to alopecia sufferers everywhere, as his bald pate allows him to put some extra spin on his frequent headers.  He’s not the talent that a Gavin, Cuesta or Choice is, but the coaches think he has a fair shot at a central midfield role.

Seeing the potential of this lot, we have decided to surround them with a platoon of veteran mentors.  Maryusz Chlystek, Aleksander Frasek, Niccola Fraccaro, Eugen Harangus, Jaccomo Krimm, Pere Carrau and Tono Zaleta currently fill our IM, CD, FW and keeper roles and are studying for their coaching badges while the Baby Bagos polish their winger skills.  None of them will be here (at least in a playing capacity) once the youngsters grow up, but they are playing an invaluable role in their development.

Finally, a word about our manager.  During his playing career, Danny Budde was a legendary striker- the former “Danish Dynamite” notched 156 goals in all competitions.  Now in his fifth season as our manager, Budde’s still an excellent developer of talent, but his locker room speeches have grown more than a bit stale.  He’s probably destined to be the man who laid the foundation of the Bagos, but not the one who will lead them up the league pyramid.