Prepare to be Woo’d at SoccerPalooza

You can’t beat the price and you can’t beat the feats of Mr. Woo.

You can’t beat the price and you can’t beat the feats of Mr. Woo.

SoccerPalooza–Washington Youth Soccer’s annual main event–is Saturday, from 9-4, at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.

It’s free, full of fun and information and features the Greatest Football Entertainer in the World. And if you don’t believe it, then you probably need to see Mr. Woo.

Anyone at the Mexico-China match will attest to the fact that Hee Yong Woo is an amazing magician with the ball. Think of the Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal’s vintage tricks with the Harlem Globetrotters. Then take away the use of their arms and hands, double the degree of difficulty and extend the time slot to, well…have you got 5 hours?

That’s how long–5 hours, 6 minutes and 30 seconds–Mr. Woo juggled a ball using only his head to break the Guinness Book of World Records back in 1989. When using his entire body, Woo once kept the ball alive for 13 hours. Last week at Qwest Field his routine was a memorable 10 minutes, punctuated by a bow to a standing ovation.

On Saturday Mr. Woo will perform on the Center Pitch from 1-2 p.m. And if you want to have something in common with Ronaldinho, stick around to get his autograph.

Perhaps Ronaldinho recognized that Mr. Woo’s gift was not so much God-given as hard work. “The only way to improve is to practice,” says the native of Seoul, Korea. Five to six hours per game initially, and 2-3 hours of daily ball work nowadays.

Given his flexibility and youthful appearance, you’d never guess Mr. Woo’s age, yet he admits he must devote more time for conditioning. “If I lose my condition, I cannot show all my beautiful skill.”

And it is beautiful. Every part of his being seems to caress the ball, moving it from chest to back to forehead to shoulders. He can juggle it with his feet while lying down or jumping rope.

“If I make a mistake I must just restart and keep going but I am lucky that I don't make many mistakes now," he says. The keys for everyone, himself included, are concentration and practice.

“If more people practice it,” says Mr. Woo, “then there will be more beautiful soccer all over the world.”

What’s More

There’s something for everyone at SoccerPalooza ( Games for kids, exhibitor booths and workshops for everyone from goalkeepers to officials to parents to information on playing in college.

Following SoccerPalloza festivities Saturday night is the WSYSA Awards Banquet (ticket required). Seattle Sounders FC owner Joe Roth will be the featured speaker.

In addition to the annual awards, TOPS program director Marty Torres and David Marincovich, a 35-year volunteer with the Highline association, will receive Lifetime Awards. The newest inductees into the Washington Youth Soccer Hall of Fame are Jimmy McAlister and David Painton.

Saw That

Undoubtedly, some fans will be otherwise detained Saturday evening, having driven down I-5 to Portland to see the Sounders and Timbers.

It’s mascot tryout time for the Timbers, who are searching for a successor to the now-retired “Timber Jim.” The mascot’s chief responsibility is to whip the crowd into a frenzy when he chain-saws a slab from a log following Portland goals.

Nearly 11,000 fans attended Portland’s home opener, and the Timbers travel north to Qwest Field for the Sounders’ first home game May 10.

Seattle, which plays its first three on the road, drew 1-1 at Charleston last week.

Adrian Hanauer and coach Brian Schmetzer continue to bring through players on a trial basis. This week there are three young prospects from France.

On Monday, Hanauer and technical director Chris Henderson depart for a two-week scouting trip to Europe and Africa.

Miss You

He was known more to the local jazz and entertainment community, but Norm Bobrow also contributed his unique talents and creative services to the original Sounders. Earlier this month, Bobrow passed away at age 90.

What a joyful, friendly and witty gentleman. Bobrow conceived advertising for both print and radio during the early years, even crafting some catchy (and corny) lyrics to the Sounders theme song. Occasionally I can hear him singing them in my head. He then served as the P.R. director from 1980-82.

I believe anyone who knew Norm will remember him with fondness and a smile.

Who’s There?

Not since the 2002 World Cup have I lived the life of a soccer night owl, but it’s awfully tempting to go sleepless these next two nights as some classic games get underway well before dawn on the West Coast.

Fadó in downtown Seattle is opening at 4:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and the Irish pub is expecting 40-50 people to watch the live broadcasts of Chelsea-Manchester United and Celtic-Rangers, respectively (both on Setanta). And no cover.

Man United can clinch the Premiership with a win, but the Blues are unbeaten in 80 consecutive EPL home games and they can pull level on points with a victory.

A battered Rangers trails Celtic by two points but has three games in hand and could go a long way toward retaking the Scottish title with an Old Firm road win.

After a midday nap, consider catching the Dominguez Hills Derby between L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA on Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel). On Sunday (8 a.m., FSC) there’s a contest between two hopeful UEFA Cup qualifiers, Everton and Aston Villa.

Sweeter still are the midweek Champions League semifinal second legs on ESPN2. Man United hosts Barcelona on Tuesday at 11:45 and Chelsea has Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. The UEFA Cup semis are set for Thursday on FSC.


What gives? In the four European cup semifinal, there was not a single first-leg winner. Both Champions League and UEFA Cup games ended in ties, two missed penalties and own goals account for two of the four goals scored. Go figure…There are still tickets available for the USA-Argentina game at Giants Stadium June 8. So far, 32,000 seats are sold…The Mexico-China was not televised locally but scored big ratings elsewhere. It was the No. 1 show in Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Chicago and Dallas among adults ages 18-49 on the Spanish-language Telemundo network…According to the The Seattle Times, while in town for that international friendly, Sounders FC owner Drew Carey dined with friend and fellow comedian Ryan Stiles. Now living near Bellingham, Stiles is a former cast member onThe Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway?…Also attending the Mexico-China game was Jack Daley, the general manager for the first seven seasons of the original Sounders.