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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Ching's path is one less taken

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Thanks to Brian Ching, we now know you need not be from a teeming hotbed of soccer or possess an elite club resume to make it to the U. S. World Cup team.

Ching has shown us there is, indeed, a way for an aspiring soccer player from Hawai'i to make it onto the biggest stage in world sports.

It is rather straight forward, really. All it takes is a mother who is willing to study the AYSO manual at red lights as she drives a car load of kids to soccer practice and then teach them the drills she has found therein.

And, of course, it requires a player from the North Shore reluctantly able to give up the dream of a pro surfing career and juggle three other sports. It calls for somebody willing to undergo facial surgery to put in plates and screws after taking a goalie's knee to mouth and, then, come back from more knee and tendon surgeries than a hard-luck NFL running back.

Kind of amazing nobody ever thought of this path to success before.

But that is the remarkable tale and winding avenue of the 27-year-old Kamehameha Schools graduate, somebody as much a survivor as a trailblazer.

So, when it was announced that Ching was selected to the U. S. team Tuesday, there was some surprise expressed by people who expected Taylor Twellman, the 2005 Major League Soccer player of the year, to get the final forward berth on the 23-man team.

But there should have been little head-scratching by those who have followed Ching's climb. Relief, perhaps, that he has been recognized. And a high-fivin' celebration, to be sure, but not surprise that he was deserving.

For Ching this isn't just a position on the most exclusive club in U.S. soccer as noteworthy as that is in and of itself. Rather this is something of a personal lifetime achievement award. A recognition of what surely seemed, at times, like 20 years of Sisyphean toil and persistence.

The kind that, as injuries mounted, had him wondering if he was at his wit's and body's end.

"It was frustrating at times but I guess it helped me realize my love for the game and every time I came back it kind of relit my fire," Ching said.

After all the congratulatory calls Tuesday night and on the way to a satisfied sleep, Ching said, "I had a little time to just sit back and reflect on my soccer career. I never imagined something like this at the beginning. When I think back, I'm just in awe that I made it."

"I know a lot of guys on the national team," Ching said, "and I look at their soccer backgrounds and then I look at mine. It is like night and day. They played soccer year round from age six or seven and were in and out of youth national teams. My route was a little bit different. But I got there in the end."

And, in doing so, has left a road map for others in Hawai'i to follow.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.