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On the ball; Skill trumps speed for 65-and-older players in US Adult Soccer Association Veterans Cup.

Byline: John Conceison

Greg Jones still gets his kicks as he nears 66.

While riding the excitement provided by the World Cup over the past month, Jones, a Stow resident, is taking to the pitch this week in Lancaster at the 13th annual United States Adult Soccer Association Veterans Cup.

This is the second straight year that the Citizens Bank Fields at Progin Park have played host to the event featuring 13 age-group divisions of men's and women's play.

Jones is suiting up for Framingham United, the defending champion in the men's 65-and-over bracket, as is Jean-Claude Sureau, also of Stow.

On Sunday mornings during the spring and fall, Jones plays for the Harvard club, a rival of Framingham United in the New England Over-The-Hill Soccer League's Veterans South Division. But for this tournament, he comes over to Sureau's side.

"At this age, people expect us to be watching others play," said United player/assistant manager Buddy Scott, who drives from Long Island on Sundays to play in New England. "We don't come here to watch; we come here to play."

"The spirit and skills these men have are amazing," said Oscar Arroyo, the team's 70-year-old player/manager.

Players have followed varied paths toward senior soccer. Sureau and Arroyo have played since youths in their native countries, Sureau in France, Arroyo in Costa Rica. Scott, 68, began playing when he was 36, Jones didn't start kicking until he turned 40.

"I picked it up while I was coaching my kids," said Jones, who grew up in Lexington long before the sport picked up there. "It looked like a lot of fun."

Jones, a football/basketball/baseball athlete in high school, was coaching his sons in Stow Youth Soccer during the 1980s when he'd hear parents howling their advice from the sideline. He had an idea on how to educate them about the game.

"I urged parents to participate in a summer league," said Jones, who heeded his own words, working his way up the age brackets. He has played with the Harvard club for the past six years.

Jones, a computer consultant, runs wind sprints to stay in shape, heading to the track four out of every five days to take in reps of 100 and 200 meters. "Just running distance is good for you, but the speed work better prepares you for what happens on the soccer field," said Jones, who turns 66 in November.

At 6-feet-1 and 185 pounds, Jones plays defender, charged with running down skilled forwards.

"When you pick up the game at age 40, the skills don't come that fast," said Jones, who played tight end in high school. "My game is largely physical."

The game came much more naturally for the 68-year-old Sureau, who proudly boasts that he has played soccer in eight decades. Before coming to America in 1954, he competed for teams representing the Racing Club of France. He played in leagues in the New York area before settling in Stow in 1985.

Sureau, who runs a defense manufacturing business in Stow, has played in the Over-The-Hill League for the past 18 years. "Sports is a 12 months-a-year thing for me," said Sureau, who is also an avid skier, golfer and tennis player.

"It's getting tougher and tougher each year, I've had a tendency to develop inflammations," said Sureau, who has nursed tender knees. "I have to balance my playing and training somewhat, try to run once or twice a week. And some help from ibuprofen."

Any signs of slowing down?

"I've been retiring for the past five years," he joked. "I keep taking it one year at a time, but I'm really enjoying it. We have players who are 70, 71 (Framingham United's oldest player is Cord Ohlenbusch of Andover at 74), they help to keep me going."

Veterans Cup opening ceremonies take place today at Progin Park, with round-robin matches beginning tomorrow. There are 103 teams registered, the second straight year more than 100 have entered.

At men's 65-and-over, Framingham United is joined by another Massachusetts Over-The-Hill squad and teams from California, St. Louis, Georgia/North Carolina and Japan. After round-robin play, quarterfinals and semifinals in each division are set for Saturday. Championship matches are slated for Sunday.

Sureau is encouraged by the level of play at 65-and-over.

"The game may appear to be played in slow motion, but it's skilled and very competitive," he said. "We have six teams in the division this year, up from four last year, and that's an indication that when players cross that threshold in age, they continue to play."



CUTLINE: (PHOTO 1) Jean-Claude Sureau, of Stow, takes a free kick during a scrimmage game Sunday. (PHOTO 2) Sureau, 68, battles for the ball. (PHOTO 3) Keeper Tony De Camillo of New York boots the ball away from his goal in a scrimmage Sunday. (MAP 1) United States Adult Soccer Association regions. (MAP 2) Progin Park soccer fields
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Title Annotation:ENTERTAINMENT
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 13, 2010
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