It’s what the Big Bang must have looked like. Relative stillness and quiet shattered by a burst of activity with brightly colored spheres hurtling in every direction.

The five- and six-year-olds running after the balls, however, are a dead give away. The explosion of activity is youth soccer practice rather than a cosmic event. “Red light,” barks Elliott Anderson, a member of the Chattanooga Football Club, quieting the cosmos before chasing one of the balls falling out of orbit. “Green light,” he says restarting the chaos.

Hundreds of children with their tiny shin guards and miniature cleats converging on the North River Soccer Complex on a chilly March Saturday morning are learning the game of soccer. They start with the most basic lesson.

Everybody put the ball at your feet,” instructs Sheldon Grizzle, one of the Chattanooga club’s forwards. “From now on don’t touch it with your hands. Hands are off limits.” Th e young footballers stop only occasionally, when someone loses a shoe or starts to cry. Some of the children’s miniature soccer balls are pink with blue butterflies. Others are tiger-striped or covered with tropical flowers. “We’re losing our blob! We’re losing our blob!” Grizzle shouts to his group as the clot of kicking cleats spreads too thin during a “blob run” exercise.

The competition is quite unlike that which Anderson, Grizzle and teammate Ivan Heredia are used to in the National Premier Soccer League. But the three are at the field for a reason: they are evangelists for the sport they love, spreading the gospel of the white-and-black spotted ball to a new generation.

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