Soccerland, U.S.A. Howard County: Home-grown Olympic players help local soccer fervor flourish.

July 23, 1996

COME THE YEAR 2000, we expect Howard County to have another of its own on the U.S. Olympic soccer team. We'll have to wait a while to discover which young athlete now polishing his skills will emerge to participate in the Australia Games.

For now we can enjoy, Clint Peay and Hamisi Amani-Dove, who are keeping alive the string of Howard County athletes performing in Olympic soccer competition.

Mr. Peay, a former star at Oakland Mills High School, will start as a defender for the U.S. squad. Mr. Amani-Dove, who played at Wilde Lake High School, will be in Atlanta as an alternate. They follow in the footsteps of Howard High graduate Desmond Armstrong, who played in the 1988 games in Seoul, and Dante Washington, another Oakland Mills alum who was a member of the 1992 team in Barcelona.

Indeed, Howard County is fortunate to have stars such as Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Washington, who understand the importance of giving back to the community.

Mr. Armstrong started playing the game at age 11 and became one of the nation's elite players. He was the first African-American member of the U.S. National Soccer Team and played in the 1990 World Cup competition for the U.S. team.

Still, he returns to Howard County to help young soccer players get a foothold in the sport. Many children have left his camps with improved skills in trapping, passing and shooting. He preaches agility, accuracy, teamwork and communication. Mr. Washington was among the "old" pros who showed up to assist Mr. Armstrong at a camp last year.

Soccer is still largely unappreciated in the United States, while it remains the most popular sport in the world.

But the game continues to flourish in Howard County, in part because of well-organized operations run by the Soccer Association of Columbia and the Howard County Youth Program. On evenings and weekends, they assemble young students of the game, who bring local fields to life.

These organizations and county high school soccer coaches can take pride when Mr. Peay and Mr. Amani-Dove take the field. Then they can get back to the business of grooming Maryland's future soccer Olympians.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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