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Bo Slovek travels from Philip to "down under" to play football

Football in a different hemisphere ... Bo Slovek and other Mid-west athletes visited Australia, then stopped in Hawaii on the return trip. He experienced some things that were “weird” and some things that were “cool.”

You play football? What kind of foot? Gridiron. What?

For the people of Australia, the American version of football "is not very big yet, but they're trying to get it going, still trying to get it established," said Bo Slovek. He recently spent 10 days on a Down Under Sports Team trip operated by International Sports Specialists, Inc.

Referring to a promotional letter from Down Under Sports, Slovek said, "I thought it would be fun and I wanted to play football. After going, I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to go."

Slovek is a 2006 graduate of Philip High School and the son of Bill and Penny Slovek. While gone from June 19-30, he practiced hard and played in two games. His 26 other team members came from Winner (6), Mission (1), Madison (1), Moorehead, MN (7), and North Dakota. Some players went to see Australia and some went to play football, but most went to do both. Slovek played defensive cornerback and offensive runningback. Eight of their teammates are going to play college ball.

Australian football includes soccer and rugby. "In rugby, pretty much you smear the guy who has the ball," observed Slovek. "In the newer Australian Football League they don't wear pads. It's mostly kicking between poles and running; there is no throwing."

For Slovek, the 13-hour flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane was a movie, sleep, movie, sleep, movie. Other team members couldn't sleep, so they played on the built-in video games. "We skipped the 20th on the way down there. Returning from Australia on the night of the 27th, we arrived in Hawaii on the morning of the 27th," said Slovek. "Once I phoned my brother, Brock, in Sioux Falls. He was just starting breakfast and I was headed out for the evening."

The Australian night-life took some adjustment. "The legal age in Australia is 18, so we were treated as adults. The way they dance is weird - it looks like they are talking in a group circle - and our kind of dancing is just as weird to them," said Slovek. "The food is really bland. We doused it with salt, pepper, ketchup, BBQ sauce, anything. They feed their cattle something different than we do so the beef is really bland. The lemonade is more of a Sprite carbonated drink. In Hawaii, we all went to McDonald's to get good food back into our systems." He said that well-traveled Australians think American food is just as "weird."

The Australian accent wasn't too difficult, but Slovek noted they were told, "Don't say certain terms; say 'bum-bag' rather than 'fanny-pack.' Drivers are on the right side of vehicles, and cars use the left lane. A taxi would stop and we would have to walk around to the other side. We didn't rent scooters, because we might have messed up driving." Slovek continued, "We got $125.50 of their money for $100 of ours. Their bills are cool-looking and waterproof. I think the 20s are orange, 10s blue, and fives are purple. Fives are also coins; twos and ones are only coins."

Even the toilets are different. A half-circle flush button is to be used to save water, and the whole circle button was when a full flush was necessary, Slovek explained.

But the trip was great, according to Slovek. "We toured an elementary school and we were treated like professional athletes. We signed autographs and they thought we were awesome. Everyone was pretty friendly.

"That ocean, it was great; it was the middle of winter and 70 to 80 degrees; I didn't know sand could be that soft; it's a surfer's paradise. Though huge hotels were everywhere, the beach wasn't packed with people." From what Slovek was told, he compared it to Sturgis in the off-season.

Passports, of course, were required and incoming Customs were strict. Football cleats were checked for grass and dirt that might be carrying plant diseases. Most food, especially beef jerky, had to be immediately eaten or thrown away.

On their return trip, they stopped in Hawaii. It was summer there, and was very crowded. It had a lot more mountains and trees than Slovek expected. Soberingly, he was glad the team got into line an hour before the Pearl Harbor Memorial tour opened - otherwise the team might not have seen it because of the crowd. Even then, there were over 100 people in front of them.

"Oh, yeah, the whole trip was worth it. I had a blast. If you went down by yourself or as a family, it would cost a lot more. We had a great tour guide. I met a bunch of cool kids, too, and we're going to try to keep in touch," said Slovek. "One of the coaches who has been there seven times said our team was the best-ever for getting along and wanting to spend time with each other."

Slovek grinned about his parents' thoughts of his going to Australia. "Whatever, I guess. It was probably a vacation for them, too." That vacation is extended because Slovek left on July 12 with other area youth for an Evangelical Lutheran Church Youth Gathering in San Antonio, TX.