Sporting Club Gjøa of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League has been named Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association’s club of the month.
Founded by Norwegian-Americans, Gjøa is the oldest active club in Eastern New York as it started playing soccer games 103 years ago in 1918. Although the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen is best known as the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911, his initial fame came in 1906, when he and his crew became the first to sail from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through the Northwest Passage. That had eluded explorers for centuries. This feat was accomplished in a 70 ft. square-sterned boat named Gjøa.
Five years later in 1911, New York members of the Norwegian Seaman’s Association organized an athletic club and, inspired by that hardy band of explorers, the new club adopted the name of the ship. Initially, Sporting Club Gjøa only participated in whale fishing and tug of war but soccer soon followed.
“Gjøa is longest tenured and one of the most storied youth clubs in the CJSL,” Dimitrie Draguca said in a statement. “It has adapted with the times and has become a role model for all other clubs to emulate. Athletic director Jimmy Svendsen and director of youth soccer Lee Kellett should be commended for the amazing job they have done.”
Gjøa’s philosophy has been to provide soccer training to as many children as possible, regardless of their family’s financial status. More than 800 players, boys and girls, are registered in the Brooklyn, N.Y. club. Of those players, 26 percent are female “but we are committed to growing the girls program and that is happening steadily,” according to Anthony Brockbank, Gjøa’s assistant director of youth soccer.
Soccer and darts are the only sports Gjøa competes in today as whale fishing and tug of war were dropped a half-century ago after having champion teams for many years in both. Gjøa soccer utilizes Dyker Beach Park, JJ Byrne, Leif Ericson Park, Pier 5, Prospect Park Parade Grounds, Red Hook and Sunset Park as their fields.
Gjøa’s Playing It Back Program is mandatory for every travel team player in which they must participate in one community event and one fundraising event every year. As part of this program, Gjøa players became pen pals with players in Accra, Ghana. When Gjøa teams switched to a new uniform, they collected their old uniforms and sent them as well as cleats to their friends in Africa.
In 2020, Daniel Safian of SC Gjøa Berg was honored for scoring Eastern New York’s goal of the year while goalkeeper Duran Lee of SC Gjøa Nordveit made the Eastern New York save of the year. In 2018 and 2019, Gjøa teams rediscovered their Scandinavian roots by competing in the world’s largest youth soccer tournament, the Norway Cup, in the capital of Oslo. Six Gjøa teams went in 2018 and five squads followed in 2019.
Gjøa alumni include Amr Aly, Gregg Bergstrom, Tom Kain, Lloyd Monsen and Michael Windischman, who represented the USA internationally. The first Gjøa men’s head coach William Andersen, Monsen and Windischman are members of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.