By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
January 11, 2021-A New Year brings new challenges, although hopefully not as many as 2020, and new initiatives. One such initiative is the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) is introducing our Club of the Month. In January, we celebrate an oldie but goodie as Sporting Club Gjøa of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL) is being honored as our inaugural Club of the Month.
CJSL Director Dimitrie Draguca stated, “Gjøa is longest tenured and one of the most storied youth clubs in the CJSL. It has adapted with the times and has become a role model for all other clubs to emulate. Athletic Director Jimmy Svendsen and Director of Youth Soccer Lee Kellett should be commended for the amazing job they have done.”
Founded by Norwegian-Americans, Gjøa is the oldest active club in Eastern New York as it kicked off playing soccer games 103 years ago in 1918. Although the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen is best known as the first person to reach the South Pole, in 1911, his initial fame came in 1906, when he and his crew became the first to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Northwest Passage, a goal that had eluded explorers for centuries. This feat was accomplished in a 70 ft. square-sterned boat named Gjøa.
Five years later in 1911, New York members of the Norwegian Seaman's Association organized an athletic club and, inspired by that hardy band of explorers, the new club adopted the name of the ship. Initially, Sporting Club Gjøa only participated in whale fishing and tug of war but soccer soon followed. The club’s name is pronounced YO-ah and rhymes with Noah, another person associated with a boat.
A Gjøa team from 1926
Gjøa’s philosophy has always been to provide soccer training to as many children as possible, regardless of their family’s financial status. Currently, over 800 players, both boys and girls, are registered in the Brooklyn club. Of those players, 26% are female “but we are committed to growing the girls program and that is happening steadily,” according to Anthony Brockbank, Gjøa’s Assistant Director of Youth Soccer.
Soccer and darts are the only sports Gjøa competes in nowadays as whale fishing and tug of war were both dropped a half-century ago after having champion teams for many years in both. Gjøa soccer utilizes Dyker Beach Park, JJ Byrne, Leif Ericson Park, Pier 5, Prospect Park Parade Grounds, Red Hook and Sunset Park as their fields.
Gjøa’s Playing It Back Program is mandatory for every travel team player in which they must participate in one community event and one fundraising event every year. As part of this program, Gjøa players became pen pals with players in Accra, Ghana and when Gjøa teams switched to a new uniform, they collected their old uniforms and sent them as well as cleats to their new friends in Africa.
In 2020, Daniel Safian of SC Gjøa Berg was honored for scoring Eastern New York’s Goal of the Year while goalkeeper Duran Lee of SC Gjøa Nordveit made the Eastern New York Save of the Year. In 2018 and ’19, Gjøa squads rediscovered their Scandinavian roots by competing in the world’s largest youth soccer tournament, the Norway Cup, in the capital of Oslo. Six Gjøa teams went in 2018 and five squads in 2019.
Gjøa at the Norway Cup. Photos courtesy of SC Gjøa.
Gjøa alumni include Amr Aly, Gregg Bergstrom, Tom Kain, Lloyd Munsen and Michael Windischman, who all represented the USA internationally, plus the first Gjøa men’s head coach William Andersen, who along with Munsen and Windischman, are members of the US Soccer Hall of Fame.
With approximately 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with nine leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer. For more information, please log on to https://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.