'I have been playing with the adults for the Hmong soccer tournaments since I was 13 years old. So technically I have been a "non league" Hmong player for a long time now.'
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Good morning faithful readers! Welcome back to regularly scheduled programming! We're back on a Thursday release schedule for new interviews, and we've got some great ones lined up over the next month or so. Himmarshee, Las Vegas Mobsters, Asheville City to name a few of the upcoming interviews.
This one is different. I got to interview Peter Xiong, a true veteran of the non league scene. He's played with Minnesota Twinstars, Minnesota United Reserves, and now VSLT FC, while moonlighting with local Hmong teams and a college stop in Mississippi. Peter is a straight baller, too. Look at the goal he scored at this summer's Hmong tournament in Minneapolis.
Yeah, there's some quality in the lower levels. So check out today's interview with Peter Xiong.
Tell me a little about yourself and the soccer scene in Minneapolis from the eyes of a player.
I am originally from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. I played club soccer throughout Wisconsin during my youth days and played college at Delta State University in Mississippi.
I moved to Minnesota in the summer of 2013. I previously played for MN United FC Reserves, then Minnesota Twinstars and now with VSLT FC all of the NPSL.
I currently just accepted a coaching position as the U10 boys head coach with Eclipse Soccer Club.
I have been playing with the adults for the Hmong soccer tournaments since I was 13 years old. So technically I have been a "non league" Hmong player for a long time now.
Playing in Hmong tourneys is very addicting! Its fun, a great atsmsphere and great to be around your Hmong people and culture, especially playing in the BIG HMONG JULY 4TH tourney at Como in St. Paul. I been playing every summer since I was 13 years old and havent missed one yet!
PLaying in the Hmong J4 tourney is amazing! the atmosphere is nuts for being a non league player! Every game is crucial with so many eyes on you, watching every move you make! The competition is crazy good! Teams from all over the USA come and play in this tournament!
I wish we would have an opportunity to give the winning team a chance to play against other nationalities or even "semi pro" teams in at area! It would not just benefit us Hmong, but would benefit the club we are playing and is great outreach!
Soccer for the Hmong in the Twin Cities is slowly dying in my opinion. There are a few teams who can battle and play but it is decreasing. Its sad to say but we need other things to bring out the competitive side of the teams. I wish they would host a tourney like they did back in the day when they had a Hmong/Hispanic tourney to determine who was the best. That is something the Twin Cities could look forward to and excite both cultures!
How long as the Hmong J4 Tournament been going on, and what kind of crowds typically show up? Pictures make it look like a full house!
The Hmong J4 tourney has been going on for about 37 or 38 years now from what I am aware of. Usually on Saturday, the crowds aren't as big because they are still playing the group games those days so most of those games aren't as exciting. Sunday is when most of the people come and watch the games. Usually after 12 pm. By then, every game that is played will be a great game to watch, with all the top teams still left trying to compete.
The crowds as you can tell from the pictures are huge! There are so many eyes on you, especially for a non league tourney. Fans come from all over the USA and sometimes even France and Southeast Asia to come watch and play.
Why do you think soccer in the Hmong community in the Twin Cities is dying, and how would you fix it?
There are a few reasons why I believe Hmong soccer is dying in the twin cities.
First one is organization of the tourneys. There are no set times, no set fields. After 35+ years of hosting this tourney, they are still making people wait to play all day. Second, teams are all combining to make an "elite" team now a days. Back in the day, teams used to play for their city, family and last name. Nowadays everyone just wants to be on that championship team, so everyone is creating an "elite" team to win. I'm not going to lie, I have created an "elite" team and won it all as well, but its not the same as winning with your close friends and family members.
The only way to fix this is to put someone in charge who knows what they are doing. Hmong J4 needs to limit roster size to only 18 players. Right now there is no max for rosters so some teams bring up to 35 guys for one tourney. If they want to see and create more teams, they need to limit the roster size to 18 and keep it at 18 only.
Since you've been in non league soccer a while, how did you get started at MN United Reserves, and wind up with VSLT FC?
I moved up here about 5 years ago and was still in good shape to play at a higher level. After college, I played with various men's team but wanted to see where my talent level was and if I can compete at the next level. I went to an open tryout for MNU and was one of the few selected to play and be with the reserve team as well as train occasionally with the first team.
The following year I got married so I took a year off. I then joined MN Twinstars of the NPSL as well, which was a Hmong based team. I played a few games with them and did well personally but the fit just wasn't for me.
This past winter I decided to give it one last try before I turn 30 and see if I could still hang with the young players. I went to an open tryout for VSLT and they saw what they liked and invited me back to train and be a part of the team.
All in all, every team was a great experience and gave me a different look at soccer from many different angles.
Have you considered stepping into that void at J4 to get everything organized?
I wouldn't mind jumping in and running the tourney but right now I still want to try to play in it. If I run it, I wont be able to play in it and I, personally as a player, want to try to play as long as I can before my legs give out.
Is there any chance we might see one of these Hmong 'Elite' teams in a league, such as the NPSL, UPSL, or PLA, someday soon?
We used to have an Hmong based team in the NPSL, MN Twinstars (yes they are still in the league, but when they first formed, it was an all Hmong team). That was back when the NPSL had just started though. I was still fairly young and not even living in MN yet. But there was once a Hmong team in the NPSL. I believe if we fielded a team, we would do fairly well in the league from the competition I've seen in the last 3-5 years.
I feel like there is a story here, so I have to ask. How did you wind up playing college ball in Mississippi?
Going to Mississippi was a journey. In my family, I was the first to receive a scholarship, or to even go to college. My family and I, at the time, didn't even know the right process or how to proceed to the next step in looking for schools. All we knew at the time was college and getting it paid for. Delta State was the first school I visited and I verbally committed to it right away, not knowing I should have weighed my options and looked at other schools. I should have toured and talked in depth to other schools that were looking at me, but I didn't because we didn't know and thought they offered the best.
All in all, it was a great journey and great learning experience for me as a person, player and parent to pass on guidance to the future players and children I coach.
What happened to the Twinstars that made them shift from being an all Hmong team?
From what I was aware of, the original Twinstars who started the team in the NPSL were a Hmong and Lao based team. So they tried to keep it Asian. I believe commitment and not performing well as a team led to the downfall of the Hmong/Lao based team of Twinstars. After that, they recruited some Asian players and went on from there to do pretty well.
But the biggest thing was the commitment and performance at that time from the Asian Twinstars team.
Is there any advice you would give to a young soccer player considering his college options?
Be patient, work hard on and off the field (class room) and always be humble about your play.
The NPSL has managed to establish quite a presence in Minnesota and the surrounding areas this year. What have you made of the current level of competition? Trash talking is totally allowed.
Its great to see Minnesota getting all the NPSL teams now. I am good friends with the guys at Minneapolis City. They run a good show over there. They are organized and are very professional on the pitch and behind the scenes.
Twinstars, I'll always have respect for since they are a originally a Hmong based team. They have quality players and a great coaching staff. If they could get the commitment from their players for the whole summer, they would be a powerhouse team for sure. They are also very welcoming to anyone who is willing to put in work for them.
VSLT was fairly new to me. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into since they were mainly a Hispanic based team. The language was very hard for me because most of the time they spoke Spanish, but like Twinstars, they welcomed me into their team and culture with arms wide open.
It's great to see the NPSL North being that competitive for its first year. I believe next year, it will be even better after having played one season. Even with all the trash talking that occurred on social media.
Let's wrap this up with some short questions. Favorite soccer players, one past, one present.
Favorite past player - Zidane
Current player - Iniesta
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to people reading this?
I just follow whatever is on twitter and listen to whats on there. Not much I specifically follow.
Where can people find out more about you and VSLT online?
vsltfc.com for VSLT info and team news otherwise just on Facebook and Twitter.
About me, I'm just on Twitter. I don't really have much about me out on the internet.
What would you say to someone asking you why they should get out there and support their local non-league soccer?
The atmospheres at local non league games are more passionate. Players play because they want to and love to play. Its all about passion, heart and dedication.
Peter, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like to read these interviews before everyone else, and make sure you aren't missing anything, click here and sign up for the newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.