Soccer: For the love of the game
Rooks bring passion for soccer to Chico
Purity in professional sports is a rare thing these days, especially at the highest level, where athletes seem to worry more about their bank accounts than their team’s success. Fortunately, Chicoans can find the true spirit of sports alive and well right here in their hometown at any Chico Rooks soccer game.
Established in 1993, the Rooks organization has as its goal enriching the lives of North Valley residents through the discovery and enjoyment of the world’s most popular sport—soccer.
The Rooks compete in the Men’s Premier Soccer League, a 14-team league with teams across the United States. To put things in perspective, you can compare the MPSL to minor-league baseball. The difference in talent at the highest levels is very slim, and many of the players have the skills to play in the MSL, the top soccer league in the United States. Former Rooks have indeed inked deals with the MSL and other professional soccer leagues.
It’s a little misleading to call the Rooks players professionals, however. Although these extremely dedicated and skilled athletes play at a high level against top-notch competition, they receive no pay and must work regular jobs to pay the bills. They play for the love of the game.
The Rooks play their home games at the 4,000-seat University Stadium on the CSU, Chico campus, in the shadow of Nettleton Stadium, a beautiful baseball facility that’s home to the Chico Outlaws and Division II national champion Chico State Wildcats. The soccer-specific stadium has elevated bleachers just 20 feet from the playing field, putting the fans right on top of the action.
Rooks games are fun for the whole family. The knowledgeable and passionate fans get to see world-class soccer up close and personal, the kids get to kick the soccer ball around and take some shots at the goal during halftime, and the littlest fans will surely get a kick out of Rookster, the team’s friendly, feathered mascot. Tickets are about what you’d pay to go see a movie, but the concessions are a lot less expensive. What better way to spend a warm summer evening?
Led by Dave Stahl, the only head coach the Rooks have ever known, the team has made it to post-season play in all but one of its 13 seasons and looks to continue that success in the 2006 campaign. In addition to Stahl, Assistant Coaches Eric Snedeker and Selechi Sahle return for their 14th season. Fans will see a lot of familiar faces on the field, too, with 15 players returning from last year’s team, including nine former Chico State Wildcats.
The Rooks have a successful tradition of combining local talent with players recruited from around the country and the world, and the 2006 team is no exception. This year’s roster includes several players from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where a former Rook is head coach, and players from Brazil, India, England, Romania, Nicaragua and Chile. No matter where they’re from originally, each player is now a member of the community. They live here and work here and want the best for their families, friends and fellow Chicoans.
Off the field, the organization is proactive in the community and works closely with local youth groups to promote healthful life decisions through the Rooks Healthy Life Challenge elementary-school program and the Kick In for Kids youth soccer program. The Rooks believe it is important for their players to be role models and promote healthful activities for kids. Management and players also run youth soccer camps in the summer that average between 800 and 1000 participants each year.
Home games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on May 5, May 12, May 27, June 10, June 24, June 30 and July 8. Tickets are $8 for preferred seating, $6 for adult general admission and $3 for youth general admission. Children 5 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased at Off the Wall Soccer, 1090 E. 20th St., or at the gate. To order tickets by phone, or for more information about the Chico Rooks or their youth programs, call the Rooks Hotline at (530)343-ROOK.