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Blau-Weiss Gottschee is one of the most recognized clubs in youth soccer, and success for the Ridgewood-based organization with German roots can be found in its Zen-like approach to the game.
We try and get kids to be one with the ball, said Gottschee youth coordinator Ben Bohem, where they can express themselves and enjoy the game.
And while todays Gottschee is represented by a cavalcade of countries, mirroring the changing face of Queens, the clubs philosophy has been a constant for more than 50 years.
It doesnt matter who we play, it doesnt matter what team is playing, but people always comment on how we try and play, said Milton Espinoza Jr., a former Gottschee player who runs the clubs Super-Y League teams. They play the same way we played 50 years ago. The emphasis is that the kids are comfortable with the ball, they enjoy the ball and that they enjoy playing and it all grows from there.
From humble beginnings, Gottschee has developed into one of the most successful clubs around, having won a bevy of New York State Cup championships as well as the outright U.S. national championship in 1985 after sharing the title in 1954-55.
Most recently, the clubs Under-14 and Under-15 teams captured the prestigious New York State Cup and will play for the Region I championship this weekend in Rhode Island while four other teams advanced to the state semifinals.
Bohem said the club has its best group of coaches since its inception, but he is quick to point out Gottschees success on the field is more a credit to the players in the club.
No coach makes a player. The key thing is you dont want to mess him up; you want to give him an environment he can flourish in, he said. That is our biggest obstacle, because the minute you put a coach on the sideline, especially with young kids, they can destroy them.
Gottschee was formed in 1951 by German immigrants who immigrated to Ridgewood. The clubs senior team played in the German-American Soccer League, which at the time was one of the top leagues in the country.
Thousands would pack the Metropolitan Oval to watch the likes of Helmut and Walter Loske, Siggi Gudzienties, Joe Krische and Willy Schaller, who was elected to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 1995. Seven years after promotion to the first division, Gottschee won the GASL Major Division Championship in 1963.
Almost immediately, Gottschee also formed youth teams to complement its senior side, ballooning to 13 teams in the early 1980s.
There was natural talent there right from the beginning, said Bohem, who joined Gottschee in 1967. We worked very hard just getting kids training regularly, doing everything with the ball, stressing skill.
The crowning moment in Gottschee history occurred on Aug. 18, 1985 when the team defeated Scott Gallagher, a club from St. Louis, on penalty kicks to win the Under-16 U.S. National Championship.
Gottschee was also the home of an estimated eight to 10 members of the U.S. National team, Bohem said, including Hall of Fame goalkeeper Arnie Mausser and Mike Windischmann, the captain of the 1990 World Cup team.
The future of Gottschee can be found in the addition of girls teams, as three teams are slated to join the inaugural U-14 team next season.
Its the next step in the evolution of the club, Espinoza said. Its something we needed to do, find a home for the sisters of the brothers in the club.
Also critical will be a rejuvenated home field at Juniper Park, which is expected to open next weekend after a much-needed facelift.
Now we actually have a home, so hopefully it will catapult us to the next level in regards of generating a renewed interest. And now kids have a place that they can take pride in, Espinoza said. Youll know on a Saturday and Sunday, you go down to Juniper and theres going to be teams playing. You dont even need to know a schedule; youll just need to go.
Gottschees recent merger with the Kosmos also allows for greater opportunities for some players who are just starting out, in addition to using fields at Kissena Park in Flushing.
The critical thing is to get a greater pool of younger players, and thats a question of fields, Bohem said. Were looking to get more younger kids involved, as many as possible, and thats the key to the club. Our strength has always been that we build from the bottom.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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