Kicking Up a Storm
SIYSL gives kids an outlet to practice skills and sportsmanship on the field
Thirty-two soccer teams facing off in an emotionally charged, passionate and exciting seven-week-long derby. Is this the World Cup? No, this is the Shanghai International Youth Soccer League (SIYSL). While now a flourishing sports league (with kids and soccer moms packing the field every week), it had a very humble beginning back in the fall of 2006.
Noting the absence of opportunities for expatriate children to play soccer in Shanghai, founder Will Dong (along with two partners who both work in international schools) came up with the idea for a city-wide sports league. “We just wanted to provide a safe and fun soccer environment for expat kids,” says Will, “a place here in Shanghai where, if you like the sport, you can come and play together.”
lacking exposure, the first season was difficult but buoyed by children participating from the German and French international schools. Support also came from Active Kidz, who submitted a number of teams in the maiden season. Based off the positive feedback – and low registration fees – membership continued to grow. Will adds, “People realized we weren’t trying to be a very commercial organization and it spread quickly by word of mouth.”
Currently, there are two types of teams in the league: school teams and club teams, which are formed by kids from different international and bilingual schools all over Shanghai. Every year contains a spring and fall season and spans a period of six to seven weeks. Teams are in charge of organizing their own training and coaches, but all teams are brought together at the beginning of each season for an orientation and rundown of the game schedule.
According to Will, the league will soon be stepping up their game and moving to Shanghai Stadium, where kids will have the opportunity to play on a more professional level”. Will attributes the coup to the growing reputation of the league, “East Asia Group (owner of Shanghai Stadium) realized that this is a very good event for the community and they told us they want to fully support the league.”
The league’s organizers are now turning their attention to finding sponsors. Holding true to their philosophy, Will says, ‘If we can get sponsors, we’ll be able to waive the registration fee, which means more teams get the chance to join.”
Source: Tim Tsiang / City Weekend / Parents&Kids / Aug. 16 – Oct.17 / Page 16