3 AHS sophomores love some soccer

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2010

Since they were 4 years old, Andalusia sophomores and twins Hiren Patel and Hiten Patel, along with Christopher Smith have been playing the “best sport in the world” — soccer.

Now, 12 years later, all three are playing for the Pensacola-based Dallas Texans Florida U16 team. The team is affiliated with the English Premier League team, Manchester United.

Last weekend, all three competed in the Gator Classic in New Orleans, where the Texans came in second place, falling to the Louisiana Fire.

All say the reason they play soccer is because it’s fun.

“That’s why it’s the best sport in the world,” Hiten Patel said.

His brother agrees.

“It’s kind of like the sport we grew up on,” Hiren Patel said.

On the team, Hiten is a defender; Hiren is the striker, and Christopher, the goal keeper.

When asked how they came to play on the Dallas Texans team, each said it wouldn’t have happened without the help of David Marcum. Marcum started a travel soccer team in Andalusia and was their coach for five years.

“He’s the reason we started doing this,” Hiren said. “Give him a lot of props.”

“From there, we started playing in little tournaments on a team called the Dothan Alliance,” Christopher Smith said. “The coach from there wanted to get different people from around Alabama to go to one team, which was called the Alabama Alliance.

“So, he called us three to play on that team,” he said. “Then, we went from Andalusia to Dothan to play for the Alabama Alliance for two seasons.”

That was two to three years ago, Smith said.

Maria Smith, Christopher’s mother, said since the trio have been playing on travel teams since they were 9.

“They just wanted to take it a step further to travel and compete,” she said.

All three came to play for the Dallas Texans Florida team as a result of playing against one of the top teams in Tallahasse.

“The coach first saw me in the Dothan rodeo because one of his goal keepers got hurt in Pensacola and went out for the first season,” Christopher Smith said. “He saw us play against SCU out of Tallahassee, and the coach wanted us to play for him, and now we’re playing for the Dallas Texans.”

Every weekend, the Patels and Smith have to travel to play in tournaments for their team.

Hiren and Hiten both play on Andalusia’s football team. After games are complete, both load up and travel to their next tournament on the schedule.

“We’ve been doing this for a while, so you get used to it,” Hiten said about the demanding schedule.

The next two weekends, the Dallas Texans will play in tournaments in Pensacola, and Jackson, Miss. respectively.

Recently, Christopher was selected to play for the Olympic Development Program (ODP). It’s a program where the best soccer players from the state play players from other states.

“If you try out there, and make it, you play for the region ODP team,” he said.

After high school, Hiten, Hiren and Smith said they would like to play soccer at either the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Central Florida or the University of South Florida.

But, when asked what their ultimate goal is in the sport they love, each said, without hesitation, to play in the World Cup one day.

Hiren and Hiten are the son of Nick and Rekha Patel; and Christopher is the son of Maria Smith, all of Andalusia.

Andalusia sophomore Hiren Patel (middle) has been playing soccer since he was 4 years old. He plays on the 16U Dallas Texans out of Pensacola with his brother, Hiten. | Courtesy photo