Column: Watch soccer and see diversity of Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tim Engstrom, Pothole Prairie

Watching an Albert Lea High School junior varsity soccer game last Tuesday, a notion struck me.

Here it is:

Don&8217;t let anybody ever tell you Albert Lea is just a bunch of white people. Don&8217;t let anybody ever tell you Albert Lea does not embrace diversity.

Such statements would not be true. The only people who would conclude them are the kind who make no effort to know their city and only circulate among the same folks every day.

The Albert Lea soccer teams &8212; varsity and junior varsity boys&8217; and girls&8217; &8212; alone reveal that, indeed, we are in America.

America is great because it is a melting pot. We are in a place where people of many countries, classes, races, religions and creeds come to settle. The middle of America is no exception. I&8217;m from the Midwest, and I&8217;ve lived on West Coast, the East Coast and in the South. I have friends from East Windsor, Conn., to Tahoe City, Calif. People come here just the same as they go there. They seek the blessings of America.

The junior varsity team is coached by a man from the United Kingdom. The team has players from various backgrounds and ethnicities. You can see it by looking at the players &8212; Hispanic, Anglo, Asian. There are exchange students from Belgium and Italy playing a game on grass with Americans of many generations and Americans of first generations.

Would a scene of such diversity be found in Lyons, France? How about Kigali, Rwanda? Dhaka, Bagladesh? Quito, Ecuador? Yakaterinburg, Russia? Busan, South Korea? Less likely is my guess, and those are larger cities. Would such diversity be found in those countries in a city of 18,000? Even less likely.

Lisa and I host an exchange student from Italy this year. We recently took him to freshman orientation at the high school. He is a senior, not a freshman; the local exchange students also attend that evening for a separate orientation offered by Dean of Students Chris Chalmers.

The other exchange students at Albert Lea High School are from France, Belgium, Chile, Germany and Japan.

Walking the halls of the school, we encountered students of many colors, black, white and in between.

Sure, Albert Lea has a large number of Anglo white people. Many are of Norwegian and Danish descent. I, like a few people here, have a Swedish background. But if you look carefully and get into conversations with people, you&8217;ll find more than you notice of the white people descend from around the continent of Europe, such as Ireland, Poland, France, England, Scotland, Germany, Netherlands and even some from the Mediterranean climates. There&8217;s a fabric of ethnicities among the &8220;bunch of white people,&8221; as some people put it.

That fabric includes the Mexicans who live in Albert Lea. They are Hispanic white. Some are longtime families in their fourth generation. Some just got here. Many can trace their roots to Europe or Native Americans or both. Many descend from the same European cities and countries as the Anglo whites, blurring the lines between the terms Hispanic and Anglo.

What does all this show for Albert Lea? It reveals our community to be welcoming, a good place to raise your children, a nice place to live.

It&8217;s just a thought. Go to a soccer game and see.

Maybe you can explain the rule for &8220;offside&8221; to me while you are at it. I don&8217;t think it existed when we played soccer by the rules in physical education class when I was in school. Our exchange student said the rule is about 10 years old. He explained the rule, but I still don&8217;t quite understand the purpose of it.

Let&8217;s see. The rule pretty much is something about not kicking the ball to a teammate on the other side of the last line of defenders (not counting the goalie).

That left me with a question: Why not keep the defenders in the middle of the field so anytime the other team kicks it past them, they are offside? The rule discourages defense, it seems.

They play defense anyway. I must not understand the rule well. Please write to me and explain!

(Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom&8217;s column appears every Tuesday.)