JUNE 22, 2005 -- If you're a soccer fan or player, Wilmington is the place to be. More than 2,000 athletes from around the world are competing in a tournament unlike any the city has ever seen.
From a distance, the fields at Hoggard High could be scattered with teenage players, but on those fields, anyone under 30 is on the sidelines. Peppered hair and a little arthritis characterize most of the players. It's the Veteran's Cup, and many of the players are over the age of 60.
Leo Klebanow says it's like picking on someone your own size.
"It's nice to play with people your own age. It's a lot of fun."
But don't let these seniors fool you. They've come from all over the world, and they're playing to win. Franko Ferrandi feels confident.
"We're going to win. We're competitive at our age. We are the best."
At this age, the best are running on spare parts. Many players are competing with injuries. Ferrandi's breakfast consisted of a prosciutto sandwich, a double expresso, and three Advil. But what they may lack in athleticism, they make up for with field experience.
"We do play smarter, a little slower, as you can see," says Louie Apostolou.
Certainly the women are giving a whole new meaning to the term soccer mom. Kerry Connelly was inspired by watching her son for so many years. With no foreseeable expiration date, the athletes say retirement is for playing young. Ferrandi hopes someday they'll make a glue to keep old men together. He says just maybe that glue will be around in time for him to make the 80 and over league.
The Veteran's Cup continues through the weekend at Hoggard High School and at the Veterans Park fields near Ashley High.
You're welcome to watch the games and the players would appreciate the support.