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Dazzling Display Celebrates 40 Years of Valley Soccer
Written by Ernie Quatrani, Correspondent
2019-07-10

            A little slice of soccer heaven currently resides in the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center,  commemorating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Valley Soccer Club.

Mike Freed stands in front of a collection of jerseys from

the 40 years of Valley Soccer. The display is part of a

celebration of soccer in the Valley and around the world

at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center.

            Organized by longtime coach Mike Freed, the exhibit, "The World at Our Feet", has something for everyone, from the diehard to the casual fan, but the most poignant section honors those local residents who grew up with Valley Soccer and learned life lessons as well as the sport.

            Certainly some of the area soccer superstars--names like Jodi Clugston, Devon Klipp, Kayla Smith, Emily Cota, Devin Muntz, Lauren Hess, Carla Moyer spring to mind--are appropriately recognized, but even those who only played a season or two will be caught up in the memories of their glory days of soccer.   Visitors can peruse record books and newspaper articles dating back to the 1980s.

            Under glass is the autographed ball from the organization's very first travel win in 1980, signed with the juvenile scrawls of names like Perry Breyer, Irv Lash, Luke Verna, Tom Kuhn and Todd Whitehead.

            "Putting this together was actually pretty cool because it was a chance to really reconnect with a lot of people from prior days of the club," said Freed.

            "I had people who had moved out of the area who were sending stuff. It was kind of neat, kind of a class reunion in the club, if you want to call it, for people to contribute to it and be part of it. I think it really kind of shows what a small little local club has been able to accomplish in 40 years."

            Freed started organizing the display about six months ago, spreading the word in the local soccer community. Soon he was inundated with Valley jerseys from as far back as 35 years ago. Freed had help, but estimates that he personally has spent about 200 hours on the exhibit.

            The head coach of the Valley Voodoos, Carla (Moyer) Sokel, got her girls involved in the project by organizing a display of 500 soccer patches.

            "It's great to see the many years of players, medals, trophies, newspaper articles all in one room," Sokel said. "It is a collaboration of the impact this Club has had in our area."

            "The ten-year-olds disappeared for twenty minutes just looking at stuff, reading things," added Freed. "It's like, alright, it's obviously drawing their interest into it."

            There are many spectacular items in the exhibit that would be the envy of any soccer fan in the world. One is an autograph by soccer legend Pele, secured at a convention in Philadelphia.

            A couple of unique keepsakes are nestled among the trophies on display, expensive Wedgewood Vase trophies awarded to the club by a company renowned for its fine china and porcelain.

            "When we did the England trips, the one tournament we played in, Stoke-on-Trent, Wedgwood potteries was the tournament's sponsor. All the trophies were Wedgewood pottery," Freed stated.

            Also displayed are autographs "that literally span the history of the game". That collection boasts the signatures of 11 players and the manager from England's team that won the 1966 World Cup and there are autographs from the Women's 1999 USA World Cup team including those of Julie Foudi and Brandi Chastain.

            "For someone who may not be interested in the club, I just think there's a whole education about the game of soccer here," Freed noted.

            Several stadium seats occupy their own section in the display room, including a well-worn seat from old Wembley Stadium in England.

            There are also team scarves, collecting cards, a replica of the World Cup and soccer-related postage stamps from Freed's extensive collection.

            "I get great pride in the stamp collection," Freed said. "The sampling you see displayed here are pieces that I pulled out. I have a stamp collection on nothing but soccer of about 8,000 pieces."

            Freed teamed up with former Upper Perk Middle School teacher and high school coach Jack Krueger to get the Valley Soccer Club off the ground in 1980.

             "Jack knew soccer but didn't know administrating. I knew administrating, but didn't know squat about soccer. So, we kind of made a good combo," said Freed who has gone on to coach soccer for 29 years, 11 of those for the Upper Perk High School girls team.

            Freed ran a sports travel business from 1994 to 2001 and that is when he really developed an appreciation for soccer's impact around the world. The business also facilitated opportunities for collecting. Freed has been to London 27 times, Iceland seven times among other foreign excursions.

            Freed cited "the foreign opportunities, the trips overseas, the hosting of teams" as a highlight of Valley Soccer's programs. "We've literally had hundreds of kids who've gotten an opportunity to travel overseas."

            Mementos of those trips are also on display at the Schwenkfelder exhibit.

            Sokel is one of many local players who appreciated the opportunities provided by Valley Soccer.

            "I was fortunate to have one of the best coaches in the area, Mike Freed, as my travel coach," Sokel said.

            "He took our team to all the best tournaments to play the best competition, including an international trip to play in England. Those experiences were instrumental in my development as a player as well as a person."

            The exhibit will be at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center on Seminary Street in Pennsburg until Nov. 3. The Library is open every day except Monday.

            Freed made it clear that he welcomes the opportunity to meet up with people at the exhibit if he can work it around his schedule.

            "Love to have a chance to reconnect with some of the people."


 

 

 

 

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