Soccer on skates: getting your kicks by rolling along

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Soccer on skates: getting your kicks by rolling along

Ten members of a local rollerblading club decided to try out a new sport at a recent practice. They added a soccer ball and two goal standards to their workout, and by the time they took off their wheels, they had scored almost as often as they had fallen.

June 16 marked the Aba Roadskating Club's third anniversary, and they celebrated by playing rollersoccer, a sport that originated in San Francisco.

"It's kind of a new thing for me," said Cody Winter, one of the club's original members and an amateur inline speedskater. "It puts a new spin on skating."

The object of the game is simple enough: Put the ball in the goal. What isn't so easy is staying off the ground, at least in the beginning.

Even Zack Phillips, the 37-year-old creator of the game and founder of the RollerSoccer International Federation (RSIF), hit the pavement as he introduced Korea to the sport that puts soccer on skates. Of course, that's only because his removable wheels happened to detach from his black boot in mid-stride.

Rollersoccer matches usually take place in roller hockey rinks, not on the uneven pavement between Olympic Plazas A and B at Olympic Park. Without the boards, the players had to chase the ball onto the grass on the sides of the field and swerve around old ladies and children. And instead of the 25-minute halves that are normal in rollersoccer, they played for about two hours.

A few differences separate rollersoccer from its grass-based equivalent. There are no permanent goalkeepers, so no one can use his hands. Slide tackles are strictly prohibited, and teams can play the ball off the boards that surround regulation fields.

The rollersoccer federation's Web site reads: "Sure it sounds crazy, it looks crazy, and people think players must be crazy, but the degree of ball control you can develop is amazing; It's actually easy to play, but difficult to master."

Sunday's pick-up game made Korea the 21st country to which Mr. Phillips has traveled to promote the sport. The idea began with a pair of skates and a pinecone that he was kicking around San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. When a soccer ball rolled by, Mr. Phillips, better known as "Soccerhead" for his red-white-and-blue dyed hair, traded in his pinecone and got some friends to join him in a game of soccer on wheels.

"After that, I thought 'Hey, this could really be a sport,'" Mr. Phillips said. "I love to skate and I love soccer, so I put it all together."

Seven years later, rollersoccer has made its way to Seoul, where Mr. Phillips hopes it will catch on. He handed Mr. Winter a ball, a pump, a few orange cones and a handful of practice jerseys at the end of the skating club's first session to help local skaters start a league of their own. Before that happens, however, the skaters might want to work on staying on their feet when a soccer ball rolls by.

by Daniela SantaMaria

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