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Manchester City hosts free soccer clinics before match at Titletown

By Greg Bates

GREEN BAY – With a soccer ball on her foot, Hadley Schmidt felt like she was in her natural environment.

The 10-year-old from De Pere was passing to teammates during a small circle game, trying to play keep-away from an instructor.

Inevitably, that instructor, who works for the Manchester City Football Club, stole the ball.

The player who had the ball taken away moved to the middle of the circle.

The kids in the group were intense but having fun on the turf on the full-size football field at Titletown park.

For 90 minutes, the participants received instruction from some high-level coaches from the English Premier League team.

The Manchester City Football Club, in town for its exhibition matchup with FC Bayern Munich July 23, held free soccer clinics for kids ages 6-16 the day before the game.

Participants were grouped into four time slots, according to their age.

There were between 150-200 kids that took part in the special clinics.

Manchester City has held similar clinics in other parts of the United States, running one in Houston three days before traveling to Green Bay.

Manchester City legend and ambassador Joleon Lescott came to Titletown ahead of Saturday’s match and said he loved to see the well-attended event.

“We talk about working the community,” he said. “They do a lot locally, close to the stadium and show appreciation for fans. I’m seeing Manchester City shirts, so there are fans in the local area. It’s important we engage as a club and there’s a relationship there within the community, so it’s important we continue to do this.”

Schmidt said she had a great time learning skills from the European coaches.

“Probably the most fun is being with other people that cheer for the same team. and it feels super big to be led by a professional coach,” Schmidt, who plays for the Loons out of De Pere, said. “For me, it’s an honor.”

The coaches conducted plenty of small group activities and the kids were able to compete in mini-games.

“I’m learning you need to stay on your toes and keep hustling, and even though it’s super hot out, you can’t give up,” Schmidt said.

Fellow 10-year-old Patrick Gajewski of Green Bay heard about the clinic, so he signed up quickly before registration filled up.

“Soccer has always been my life, and I’ve done it since I was 4,” Gajewski said. “It’s been a part of me.”

A member of the Allouez Anchors 12U team, Gajewski said he was hoping to learn lessons he could carry over to his future game.

“I can take away an all-around boost and stuff,” he said. “They’ve taught me some ways for defense. I was OK with defense on my other team before, but now I feel this is a bit better.”

Green Bay, traditionally known for its football, showed there’s quite a bit of interest in soccer. 

“It’s a huge draw, like I said before, City shirts and genuine fans,” Lescott said. “To pry kids away from other sports in America is a huge attraction and for football in Manchester City. Going forward, I think the sport has grown so much in the last 10-20 years (in America), the MLS (Major League Soccer) is getting bigger and is attracting bigger names. The sport is growing – it’s going to be a long time before it’s the size it is in Europe, but the respect is here. The entertainment side of it they enjoy. As long as it keeps on growing, I’m sure everyone’s happy.”

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