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Still in the soccer game

Eagle’s Trace man is passionate about the sport

Created date

October 26th, 2010

Move over, Friday Night Lights. There s a new game in town. Soccer, long the most popular game in the world, is breaking onto the American sports scene. With all the hype surrounding this past summer s World Cup, it s no wonder that Texans are catching f tbol fever. Currently, an estimated 80,000 youth and 40,000 adults in Houston play soccer, according to the Houston Parks Board. Standing out in the crowd is Juergen Fuerst, a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman with a thick German accent and piercing blue eyes. A regular fixture on the local soccer circuit, Fuerst has spent the past several decades coaching and officiating youth soccer games in Houston. Known for his extensive knowledge of the game and insistence on sportsmanlike conduct, Fuerst lends a touch of European sophistication to matches played on Houston soil.

Across the Pond

Fuerst started playing soccer for a junior team in Germany when he was ten years old. Things were different then, he says. There wasn t as much parental involvement as there is now. I just told my parents where I was going and hopped on a streetcar. It was strictly the kids and the coach at practice. Fuerst continued to play recreational soccer, but by the time he was 23, he was moving in a new direction. At the urging of his sister, who had already moved to the States, Fuerst booked passage on a freighter across the Atlantic in the fall of 1953. The journey took six days. Conditions were not good in Germany at the time, says Fuerst. My sister lived here and encouraged me to come over. I thought, Why not? If things didn t work out, I hoped I could at least earn enough money to buy a boat ticket home. When he arrived in Houston, Fuerst found work as a bricklayer for a construction company. In the evenings and on weekends, he played for the Houston Saengerbund, an amateur soccer club affiliated with a local social organization designed to preserve the German heritage of its members. Six months after he arrived, his future wife followed him to America. My wife was from Bremerhaven, says Fuerst. We had known each other for four or five years in Germany, but we didn t get married until we were both in Houston.

Work ethic on and off the field

The couple had two children, a boy and a girl. When Fuerst s son turned six, he started playing for the Southwest Soccer Club. Fuerst volunteered to coach the team. I never missed a practice or a game, says Fuerst. I worked all day, then made it to a six o clock practice. I committed myself, and I kept my commitment. That s part of my heritage. As his son grew, Fuerst also moved up through the different age brackets. After his son went off to college, Fuerst continued to coach the under-19 team for several years. His team made it to the state championship twice and both times lost in the finals. That s part of it, says Fuerst, but it was good experience. Fuerst s levelheaded approach to the game and his appreciation for a good match differs from that of the vuvuzela-blowing fans who cheered so ardently for their teams during the World Cup. When I was the coach and the other team s goalie made a good save, I acknowledged it, says Fuerst. The best games happen when both teams play well.

Hanging up his cleats

Fuerst is planning to hang up his cleats this season, after spending the past several years officiating games for the Houston Youth Soccer Association and area high schools. It s time, he says. I ve been coaching or officiating for the past 40 years. That s not to say that Fuerst is taking himself out of the game. He will continue to watch sporting events from the comfort of his apartment home atEagle s Trace, anErickson Living communityin west Houston. I ll always be a fan of the game, he says. Soccer s in my blood.