By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
October 29, 2020-The Olympic Development Program (ODP) has a long history and it's the highest level of play in each state association. The geographic area of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) is so large that ODP is divided into North and South teams.
25 years ago in July 1995, a Boys-Under-12 ODP North team made up of players who live north of New York City travelled to Scotland to play in the Aberdeen Football Festival, an experimental 7v7 tournament. THE YANKS ARE COMING read a headline in an Aberdeen newspaper and the team became a toast of the town, touring castles, going through a maze, meeting the Lord Provost plus professional players and even visiting a local jail. The team was led by head coach Cesare Maniccia and assistant Dave Bundy.
“The Scots did not expect us to be that good. Three of our players were scouted by three professional teams and, I believe, they talked to their parents in trying to convince them about enlisting in their youth academies,” Coach Maniccia recalled. “At the award ceremony on July 22 hosted by the City of Aberdeen, the Master of Ceremonies remarked, ‘I did not think that the Yanks could play football.’ “
Upon arrival, Eastern New York ODP arranged a friendly with a local team that placed second in the region. Although Eastern New York lost, they learned a good deal.
“Our first problem was the goalkeeper position. None of the keepers on our team could make the trip and so we picked one of the field players, Neal Keating, who performed superbly in goal,” Maniccia stated.
In a period of five days, Eastern New York ODP played a total of five games. The boys were behind at halftime in every game, the coaches made halftime adjustments and they wound up coming back in all five matches to be undefeated and become Aberdeen Football Festival champions.
“Dave and I were very impressed with the high level of community involvement. Our games were very little attended at the beginning, but the presence of spectators kept increasing with each game,” Maniccia concluded. “The Festival community was hugely impressed with the high level of our games and we received many compliments.”
The City of Aberdeen went out of their way to make it a memorable experience. The climax of the week was the Award Banquet which included a sit-down, four-course meal followed by a Festival video that included highlights from each of the 24 older teams plus the Eastern New York ODP squad.