Players take passion for soccer indoors

The ball careened off the basketball backboard, hit the fire alarm then boomeranged toward the bleachers, where it ricocheted off the boards, spinning toward the opposite end of the Panzer gym. Goal!

Welcome to the world of indoor soccer, where virtually anything goes, at least in the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart intramural coed league. Also known as arena soccer, the game allows the ball to be played off walls and other obstacles, resulting in a fast and furiously paced game.

“Basically everything’s in play here … the exit signs, door handles and other obstructions,” said Andy Kneff, the league’s head referee. “We tell the players to be prepared, because the ball may not go where you think you’re sending it.”

The defense also has to be on their toes for the exact same reason.

Because of its intensity, indoor soccer is not the easiest game to play or the most mainstream.

In fact, USAG Stuttgart is one of a handful of garrisons in Europe to offer the sport, according to Matt Gilliard, the sports coordinator for the garrison.

“Not everyone wants to play sports like flag football, softball and basketball. We had quite a few requests from Soldiers for indoor soccer, and we’re happy to accommodate them,” Gilliard said. Oneil Rhooms enjoys playing the sport.

“I look forward to it every year. It’s really intense, it’s a high tempo, and you get a really good work out from it,” said Rhooms, who plays for the Patch Clinic team.

His team, last year’s undefeated champions, has its sights on taking the title again this year.

With a record of 2-0 at press time, the team is off to a good start. “We’re going to keep working on it,” Rhooms said. “There are improvements to make, but I’m confident. I’m sure there are teams out there gunning for us.

Indeed. Six other teams have their eyes on the championship this year, including an all-women’s team.

“It’s been a lot of fun but also a challenge to play against the men,” said Laine Skiendiel, a player on the Honey Badgers, the all woman team.

“It’s much different than playing 11-man soccer,” she added. “But everybody loves it, and its a great fitness program.”

The indoor soccer season runs through mid-November. Games are played Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Panzer gymnasium. Spectators are welcome, but be prepared to duck.