Ian Mork, a Kansan, is coaching the tiny Central American country of Belize in its first ever major international soccer tournament.
He is an American, and his connection to Belize starts in Springfield.
Mork found himself in a wild scenario and coaching the 130th-ranked country in the world against the United States men’s national team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup last Tuesday in Portland, Ore. The U.S. won 6-1, but the match put Mork, 41, and his unusual story in the spotlight.
He is a native of Wichita, Kan., and a youth trainer, scout and coach in San Francisco.
Mork forged a friendship with Belizean Rene Montero, a native of the English-speaking country of 300,000 bordered by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea, when they were roommates and teammates at Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois Springfield.
“I turn the TV on and there the two of them are together, holding hands and listening to the national anthem before the game,” said Aydin Gonulsen, who coached the pair at Sangamon State. “They showed Ian and Rene several times throughout the match on the sidelines. To see these guys coaching at this level makes my insides feel so good."
The story was featured in The State Journal-Register on July 13, 2013.
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