ATTLEBORO, MASS. - It may not be very surprising that there was not a lot of red in the crowd, but there was plenty of blue and white as Attleboro native Geoff Cameron returned home from his World Cup exploits to receive the key to the city in front of a large crowd at Tozier-Cassidy Field.
Attleboro High Principal Bill Runey, Attleboro soccer coach Peter Pereira, and Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas greeted Cameron, who played in three of the U.S. national team’s four games at the World Cup in Brazil. In front of an adoring crowd of youth soccer players, parents, friends, family, and well-wishers, Dumas announced that Thursday, July 17 was officially “Geoff Cameron Day” in Attleboro.
“I remember the 1994 World Cup and my dad took me to the stadium and I think I got to see Colombia versus Ireland and I remember telling my dad that I wanted to play for the national team, that I wanted to play in the World Cup,” reflected Cameron.
He continued, “The coolest moment is walking out of the tunnel that first time…and you’re thinking this is the moment that you’ve been waiting for your entire life, so take advantage of it.”
Cameron has long praised the youth program in Attleboro and, in particular, Pereira for giving him the start to his soccer career and he reiterated that on Thursday evening.
He said, “Attleboro Youth Soccer is where I started off my career and from there to playing for Bayside and then the Boston Bolts and then on to college and from college to getting drafted. I just had a love for the game, whether it was outside in the backyard or running over here and playing on whatever pitch I could find.”
After the ceremony, as Cameron sat down for what turned out to be a couple hours of signing jerseys, hats, and posters and taking countless photos, Pereira recalled when he knew that the young player, who spent two seasons at Attleboro High before moving on to Providence Country Day, had the potential to make it to the next level.
“When he was 10, you could already tell that he was quick and he could do stuff with the ball and he was always playing with kids that were two or three years older than him,” he said. “You watch him today and it was the same way that he played then.”
Pereira, who has been the coach at Attleboro High for 34 years, was thrilled to be able to organize an event like Thursday’s ceremony. After all, it is only a select number of communities in the United States that can celebrate a player returning from World Cup duty.
“It’s really exciting; it happens once in your lifetime. What are the chances that I’ll have another player that gets there? The road is long and hard to get there,” he said. “I’m really proud of him and I’m happy that he’s doing well and representing Attleboro and our whole community.”
Attleboro High rising senior Matt Rodrigues, who was both a HockomockSports.com Best XI performer and Hockomock All-Star last season, has been close to Cameron for a number of years. He called Cameron an inspiration for the young players in attendance.
“It’s just good to see that there is a chance for everyone to go somewhere -- no matter where it is,” said Rodrigues, who is currently looking to play at the Division I level in college with Cameron’s alma mater URI on the list of interested schools.
“It’s good to see that he played club, went to college, and ended up playing professionally. So, everyone has their different path and where you take it is on you,” he continued. “It just shows that everyone has their own path and that they’ll end up somewhere.”
Cameron reflected on his best and worst moments of the World Cup -- with the exciting victory over Ghana being at the top of the list and his exclusion from the group stage finale against Germany at the low point of the tournament. But, no matter the highs or lows, Cameron urged all of the aspiring soccer stars in attendance to keep their focus on improving each day.
“Discipline, dedication, and desire -- three D’s that my dad taught me since I was a little kid,” he said. “Instead of going out with your friends and hanging out doing things you’re not supposed to, I was in the backyard juggling a soccer ball and challenging myself to get better and better every single day.”
Cameron added, “Most importantly…dream big, take little steps each day to achieve those dreams, and anything is possible. Some people told me that I would never play soccer…but every single day I wake up and get to kick a soccer ball for a living.”
Next up for Cameron is a return to his club team, Stoke City, in the Premier League. He will return to his home in Manchester, England and to the Potters at the end of July -- a much needed rest after the mental and physical toil of the World Cup.
Even if this World Cup just ended last weekend, it’s hard for Cameron to not look ahead to the next four years and the possibility of taking the field again for the U.S. when the next tournament begins in Russia in 2018.
“You never know when it’s going to be your last so you need to take full advantage of your opportunities,” he reflected. “Hopefully I will be back in four years and this crowd will be even larger.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.