Amherst’s Bruce Wilcox has kept playing the beautiful game into his 70s

  • Amherst’s Bruce Wilcox, left, with Kino Shita of West Japan at the Over-70 World Cup in Denmark last month. Wilcox plays in senior soccer tournaments all over the world. COURTESY GRETA WILCOX

  • North Carolina United, which was composed of players from all over the United States – none from North Carolina, oddly – and some Canadians placed third at the Over-70 World Cup last month in Denmark. Amherst’s Bruce Wilcox is in the back row on the far right edge. COURTESY GRETA WILCOX

@kylegrbwsk
Published: 7/6/2018 5:22:27 PM

Bruce Wilcox’s retirement hasn’t been filled with golf or shuffleboard.

The Amherst resident and former director of the University of Massachusetts Press instead chose soccer.

He plays twice a week at a long-standing pickup game at Florence Fields and travels all over the world for senior tournaments. Wilcox, 70, started with the sport as a kid and played through high school until he broke his leg skiing in 1964. He got back into it playing in the Washington State men’s league while working at the University of Washington Press and kept at it when he returned to Massachusetts to work at UMass in 1982.

“I think there is a certain magic that occurs when you are on the soccer pitch and get caught up in the flow of the game. It is all about teamwork — passing and moving to space, anticipating, reacting, going with the flow,” Wilcox said. “There is constant movement and a special joy in the well-timed run and the well-placed pass.”

The Cambridge native, who turns 71 in September, recently returned from the Over-70 World Cup, held June 14 to16 in Gladsaxe, Denmark, north of Copenhagen. It was played at the facilities of Akademisk Boldklub, which features a professional team playing in the third division of Danish soccer and a robust senior club.

“Since retirement I’ve had more opportunity to travel and play other places I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity,” Wilcox said.

He represented North Carolina United, a team featuring a combined delegation from the United States and Canada but no players from North Carolina. The manager Kim Bergenser organized senior teams in North Carolina for years under the North Carolina United banner then moved to Portland, Oregon. He kept the name and continued to manage the North Carolina squads. The team featured players from Southern California, Seattle, Vancouver, Tucson and Tulsa, among others.

“Kim puts an enormous amount of time and energy into these tournaments and soccer trips. I really appreciate his efforts,” Wilcox said. “He was born in Denmark and speaks fluent Danish, which was very helpful when we were there.”

The team played four friendly matches in Aalborg, further north in Denmark, before the Over-70 World Cup. The tournament featured 12 teams divided into four groups of three.

North Carolina United won all three of its matches in Group D to finish at the top of the group. Wilcox scored a goal and had an assist in a 2-0 win over Star Team, a Danish team, in their second group game.

“He’s a coach’s delight. He serves the team first,” said former UMass women’s soccer coach Jim Ruby, who got to know Wilcox when the two were at UMass and played on senior teams together. “He’s a great support player, really nice left foot. There’s not enough lefties.”

Wilcox plays midfield in senior games and tournaments but shifts back to defense during his Florence Field pickup games.

“Guys in their 30s, 40s and 50s are quicker,” Wilcox said.

Topping the group set North Carolina United up for a semifinal against West Japan, which finished second in Group C. West Japan won 1-0.

“They’re well-organized,” Wilcox said. “A really strong team.”

West Japan defeated B93/Brønshøj 1-0 in the final. North Carolina United played in the consolation final and won 2-0 against AB Tårnby to finish third in the tournament. “Which felt like a respectable showing,” Wilcox said. “No serious injuries, so that’s always a good outcome.”

The organizers scheduled the tournament so it would end on the first day of the FIFA World Cup. All of the teams gathered in the bar at Akademisk Boldklub to drink some beers and watch Denmark play Peru in the team’s World Cup opener.

“We had this great party,” Wilcox said. “They had a big screen TV, and, of course, everyone was rooting for Denmark because there we were in Copenhagen.”

The next Over-70 World Cup will be in Osaka, Japan, in October 2019.

“You see some of these people again and again in different places and compete against them and get together and have a beer afterward and tell stories, sing songs,” Wilcox said. “We have a good time.”

After returning from Denmark, Wilcox’s dance card remained full. The New England Over the Hill League, which has organized play since 1981 and added higher age brackets over the years, hosted its over-63 championship game July 1. Wilcox’s Nashua Carcara team defeated its arch rivals Raynham 2-1 in 95 degree weather made even hotter by the artificial turf surface at Fore Kicks in Taunton.

“You see all these old dudes huffing and puffing around in that heat, it’s something else, Wilcox said.

He jetted off to Bellingham, Washington, on Friday for the USASA Adult Soccer Fest, formerly called the Veterans Cup. It’s been contested since 1998.

“I just love the game. So many people do. It’s a game that brings together so many people from so many different countries and different backgrounds, it’s good exercise. It’s good fun,” Wilcox said. “There’s a Japanese guy that’s got a hat that says passion for the game knows no age, and there’s some truth to that.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.


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