The South DeKalb YMCA Sting soccer players ripped off their shirts after outscoring the favored opponents Saturday, not in a salute to U.S. soccer player Brandi Chastain, but in an effort to cool down.
In sweltering heat, the all-male underdogs in the 10-and-under division of the Georgia Games event, held at Augusta Soccer Complex, managed to rally in the second half to upset the Columbia County Patriots, a select soccer team, 3-2.
"Select teams are generally better than recreational teams," event coordinator Alan Johnson said. "But the Sting is an impressive team."
Select-team players must try out for the team, and coaches are able to pick the best players, Johnson said. With recreational teams, anyone can sign up.
The Atlanta team's coach, former college soccer player Michael Ingram, didn't have to pick and choose players; the winning team came to him.
"These kids are persistent," he said. "They really want to play, so teamwork is on their side."
Even when the team was down 2-0 before halftime, 9-year-old Dennis Keith, who charged from midfield to score the game-winning goal, said he was confident the Sting would win.
"We never gave up hope," he said, out of breath. "We won because of teamwork."
The close bond among players seems to stem from the family-oriented coaching style of Ingram. Soccer is in the blood of the Ingram family, which is originally from Jamaica.
"I grew up playing soccer," he said. "It's a family affair for us. My brother also coaches, my wife helps out with the team, and my nephew is one of my players."
Last summer, Ingram wanted to share his homeland with the Sting players. With the help of sponsors, he arranged a weeklong trip to Jamaica to play a few local teams.
"They loved it," he said. "They didn't want to come home."
During the past two years, the team has won the YMCA Championship tournament, as well as the Stone Mountain Recreational tournament. Medals in the Games soccer tournament will be given out today to the team with the most wins in its division.
It's not often that the Sting goes up against teams as advanced as the Columbia County Patriots. The team usually plays recreational teams, but Ingram said he is confident his team has the passion to meet any challenge.
"I always tell my team, `The ball is round; it favors no one,"' Ingram said in a distinct Jamaican accent. "Anything can happen."
Katie Throne can be reached at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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