Mini World Cup soccer tourney opens

Edmonton's Mini World Cup Soccer Tournament kicks off Wednesday night, featuring some of the citys best players representing 29 nations in one of the world's largest indoor tournments.

Some of the city's best soccer players will go head to head over the next two weeks in Edmonton's Mini World Cup — one of the world's largest indoor tournaments.

Each team represents one of 29 nations. The players — all 35 years or older — compete in three divisions. 

Many former professional players will raise the skill level among the 44 teams. Some of the players should be familiar to Edmonton fans — Mario Galanzky, Dave Riens, Chris Devlin, Sanisa Mateetch, and Eric Munoz — all players who competed at the highest level in their home countries and in professional Canadian soccer ranks.

Jorge Rodriguez, 48, came to Edmonton more than 20 years ago to play for the Brickmen. He liked the city so much, he stayed. The former Chilean pro now plays in Edmonton's premier league, an elite group of men's teams.

"I know in other countries a 48-year-old guy will stand there in the house and watch TV. But we still play, you know. You see the guys have passion for soccer, that's the more important thing."

Nikki Vignjevic, a former first division Serbian player who played with the Edmonton Drillers said he's never lost his passion for the game.

"I like soccer so I wish I could play 24 hours a day. Doesn't matter if it's professional or amateur I just love soccer."

Dennis Taylor played pro ball in Montreal and Ottawa. He believes the talent pool at the tournament is outstanding. "A lot of these guys can still play at a really competitive level," he said.

The experienced players give the up-and-comers someone to look up to, said Mike Thome, Executive Director of Edmonton Soccer Association. "It's really inspirational for kids to see that these guys have been able to maintain that standard throughout their lives and a lot of kids get inspired by that," he said.

Chris Devlin coached Team Scotland to victory in the 2007 Mini World cup and comes back this year as a player. "Soccer's my life, man. It's in my blood ... you see people over in the other countries and soccer's a religion, right? And that's what I feel it is too. It's my passion, it's my life."

The first match-up, England against Germany, kicks off at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at the South Soccer Centre on Roper Road. The tournament continues until April 14.