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Kale Wurdeman (#20 at left) recently had the opportunity to play with a Colombian soccer team at a tournament in Blaine, where he was invited to play with the team this summer in Colombia.- photo submitted

Passion for soccer leads to international experience

Web posted May 13, 2014
By Kate Perkins, Northland Press Correspondent

Kale Wurdeman has been playing soccer since he was just 4 years old. Being active in the sport recently led him to an international playing experience in Blaine, Minn.

A senior at Pequot Lakes HIgh School and Breezy Point resident, Wurdeman loves the game.

“I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s like I’m comfortable out on the soccer field. Any worries, anything related to stress just goes away,” Wurdeman said.

That’s why last July he decided to apply to compete in the Schwans USA Cup, a soccer tournament for teens across the globe, held in Blaine, Minn. He turned in the application but didn’t hear any response. Just two days before the tournament, he received an email saying there was a spot for Wurdeman to play on the Colombian team. He jumped at the opportunity and headed to Blaine to compete.

“The week down at the USA Cup was cinematic to say the least,” Wurdeman said. The tournament hosts more than 16,000 players that have come from 17 states and 65 countries.

Wurdeman did encounter a bit of a language barrier, though: all the Colombians spoke Spanish, and very little English. Wurdeman’s taken two years of Spanish language classes at Pequot Lakes High School, though, so he was able to communicate on the field with the team. The Colombians were serious about soccer, he said.

“Here we play soccer as a sport; there they play it as part of life,” he said.

The Colombian coach told Wurdeman that if he proved himself on the field, he’d be invited to play with the team in Colombia the following summer- and he was. Wurdeman’s team made it to the semifinals, losing against a team from Montana, but Wurdeman left the competition with the option of playing with the Colombian team the following summer.

Wurdeman started playing soccer at age 4 through the Crosslake Community Center, where his father was his team coach. A family friend who was in the Peace Corps in St. Lucia was also heavily into soccer and was an inspiration for Wurdeman.

“Some of the stories he told me about playing with people down there… that  always sparked a sense of curiosity and an urge for me to keep playing,” he said.

Wurdeman continued playing this year as a senior through the cooperative Pequot Lakes has with the Brainerd team. One day, while kicking a ball around on a football field, Wurdeman’s friend suggested that he play football. Wurdeman decided to try out, and made the team as a kicker.

He said that a lot of his soccer skills carried over to football, but kicking a football is a lot different than kicking a soccer ball.

“There are so many differences in the way you kick in the two sports,” Wurdeman said. His strength and endurance, however, were useful as he began playing football. He plans to play football when he’s in college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Wurdeman was faced with a difficult decision as summer approached: whether to play with the Colombian team over the summer, or accept an internship in Washington DC with Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan.

Nolan’s granddaughter is a fellow classmate and Pequot Lakes High School, and Wurdeman approached Nolan after he spoke at the school. Wurdeman was asking what it would take to get endorsements for some of the colleges he planned to apply to, when he got to talking to Nolan about the possibility of an internship, which was later offered to Wurdeman.

In the end, Wurdeman decided to accept the internship rather than play with the Colombian team in South America. The internship will look good on his resume, he said, and by not traveling to Colombia he’ll have the opportunity to travel to Belize with his youth group, where he’ll help build houses as part of a missions trip.

Though he won’t be going to Colombia this summer, “I’ll always play soccer,” Wurdeman said. He wanted to thank his Brainerd soccer coach, Tony Smith, who encouraged him even when he decided to pursue football as well as soccer.

Wurdeman will get to see his Colombian team again this summer when he returns to Blaine to once again play alongside them in the USA Cup.

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