Indoor soccer's a kickFriday, June 17, 2011 By Christina Rucker
Mladin Kozak’s grandfather put a soccer ball in front of the toddler as soon as he started walking. By the time Kozak was 4 years old, he was already playing soccer with his grandfather, a player on the national soccer team of Yugoslavia, and his father, who also played professionally. “My family has played soccer for generations. My brother played professionally in Switzerland. All my cousins and everyone I know, all the males they’ve played soccer,” Kozak said. He came to Tucson when he was 13 because his country was going through political turmoil. “When the war started in Yugoslavia in the early ’90s, we went to Croatia and then Switzerland. We lived there as refugees for five and a half years,” Kozak said. At the end of 1998 Kozak and his family moved to Tucson as part of a refugee program. He said he had family in the U.S., making it easier to settle. Now 34 years old, Kozak and his brother run an indoor soccer field called Maracana at 555 E. 18th St. near downtown Tucson. On most nights, there are between 50 to 200 people in the building. Upon walking in you can smell the plastic artificial grass and sweat of players working hard to win. The sound of kids yelling, parents calling to the ref on the sidelines, and the piercing sound of whistles creates an exciting atmosphere that attracts players. When the complex first opened last August, 16 teams participated in leagues there, but now there are more than 80 teams. There are also ultimate Frisbee and lacrosse leagues. The field is open every weeknight from 5 p.m. to midnight. Krystal Richards, 19, who plays in a league at Maracana, enjoys playing there because Kozak is flexible with scheduling and always treats his players kindly. Minh Vu, 20, enjoys playing on the artificial turf at Maracana because it is safer to play on than the tile floors at another indoor soccer complex in town. “Outdoor soccer is more serious and competitive,” he said. Kozak plans to add another field and a snack bar. “Any kind of sport makes you fit, and have more energy,” Kozak said.