Blong Yang, left, a local attorney, and Dao Her, an IT professional, hope to hold the first HMOOB CUP 2011 national Hmong soccer tournament this August at Concordia University. (AAP staff photo by Tom LaVenture)
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. (February 1, 2011) – Hmong, summer and soccer are three in the same as indicated by the number of tournaments – and a new tournament is designed to showcase the best Hmong players and get back the purity of the sport.
Blong Yang, a local attorney who helped to establish the Hmong American Bar Association, and Dao Her, an IT professional at Western Bank, have established the first Annual HMOOB CUP from August 4-7, 2011 at the Seafoam Stadium of Concordia University in St. Paul. They expect to bring teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Michigan, North Carolina, Colorado, and other states with Hmong populations.
“We want to organize a fan-friendly soccer tournament in which soccer is the main attraction,” said Yang. “We want games that are played on regulation size fields and regulation time. What we want isn’t revolutionary, yet it would be a departure from what’s out there. We want to crown the best Hmong soccer team in the country.”
As Next Level Promotions, LLC, the two said the tournament is a player’s tournament with a big purse and shouldn’t conflict with other soccer events that occur in July or on Memorial Day. The tournament aims to attract 20 teams from around the nation.
“We would like this to be the biggest Hmong tournament in the country in 15 years,” said Yang.
Recent violence at Hmong tournaments around the country has frustrated both players and fans. However, Yang said there are many other reasons for a professional soccer tournament and that the goal is not to compete with the July 4th tournament or any other and that they have planned it around those events.
“This is a different kind of tournament, and not just a side note in a festival,” he added.
For 30 years Yang said Hmong soccer has looked the same and that its time to take it to the next level. The fighting between teams has prompted at least one player to say to him that he was embarrassed and feared Hmong players would now have a reputation as “barbarians on the field.”
“As a fan I grew up watching soccer but when it goes to fighting then who wants their kids to be involved?”
If a tournament is run by the rules and they are enforced across the board then the games should not get out of hand, he added.
The festival competitions also tend to confuse the fans. There are several simultaneous games and unless a fan catches one from the start it is difficult to know who the teams are, what the score is, or track them throughout the tournament.
The Hmoob Cup would have online information including programs with complete team rosters, schedules and player photos. They would offer real time updates as the games are being played, with lists of top scorers, the best goalies and awards to the best players at the end.
“If you can’t catch a game or don’t know the teams or the score if you came in late; we want people to know what’s going on,” he added.
The festival tournaments tend to attract fans around the edges of the field and with umbrellas up its tough to watch the game except for fans right up front. Yang said the Hmoob Cup would have grand stand seating for a better view but also to make the players more comfortable playing near the sidelines. It also helps to have only one game going on at a time, he added.
“Everyone flocks to the good game in a tournament,” he said. “We want to make every game a good game.”
Seafoam Stadium is currently under an inflatable dome during the winter but it will reportedly come down during the summer and the players will have a professional field with artificial turf, a game clock and scoreboard, a public address system, and all under the sun.
“The biggest thing is walking into a stadium and not a park,” said Yang. “If that doesn’t get the blood pumping I don’t know what will.”
“Concordia has been wonderful,” said Her. “They have been done this so long, and they are great at doing it. It is easy to work with them and we hope to sign the contracts soon.”
Registration for the tournament is first-come first-served. The first five teams from Minnesota, five teams from California, and four teams from Wisconsin will be guaranteed a spot in the tournament. Teams from these states that register after the first spots have been filled will be put on a waiting list to ensure teams from other states may enter.
Each team would produce a $1,700 (nonrefundable) if received before February 15, 2011, or $2,000 (nonrefundable) after February 15, and before June 1, 2011. The nonrefundable terms means registered teams must show up to play if the tournament is held – but that it will be refunded if the tournament is cancelled.
“Its difficult to convince people that its real and with real prize money,” said Yang.
A separate $1,000 security deposit is fully refundable and is required to ensure fair play and sportsmanship. Teams would face disqualification and lose their deposit for cheating, such as having players not on the final roster; for a team accumulating seven red cards; for team fighting; or abuse or threats to tournament organizers or referees.
Yang said he would not like the scenario of a tournament with fewer than 20 teams but that they would go ahead with an adjusted prize amount based on the number of entries.
“We are capping it at 20 teams,” he added. “That is 10 games over an 18 hour day, and on the last day having seven to eight games in the championship bracket.”
The technical issues have been worked out and right now the two are focusing on finding sponsors, venders, and all of the things that need to be in place.
Her has been playing soccer for most of his life and said it would be difficult not to participate in the tournament but that he wouldn’t to avoid a potential conflict of interest. He said the tournament would operate under FIFA rules with modifications only to the rules on substitutions. The teams will play at least three full 90 minute games on regulation-sized fields with certified referees.
Her said there is a tendency in the festival tournaments for teams to stack on players from around the country to increase their odds of winning. A local team may not even resemble its normal roster during a high stakes tournament.
The Hmoob Cup will have a residency rule in part to level the playing field and also to know that a team from any given state will have players from that state. He said it increases the fun in knowing that bragging rights are a little more authentic this way.
“We want to create a tournament that’s played the right way, with no bad breaks that allow good teams to lose to bad ones,” he said.