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Cambuur's D.C. Connection

SC Cambuur is close to gaining promotion to the Eredivise and playing in the Netherlands' top flight for the first time in nine years. Why should we care?

Because Cambuur's general manager, Alex Pama, was born in Bethesda, Md., coached youth programs in Idaho, Arkansas and Georgia before arriving at the Dutch club three years ago. Under his guidance, Cambuur has pulled itself out of financial ruin, and this spring has advanced to the final round of playoffs for promotion. It will play top-tier club Roda (16th place among 18 clubs) in a series that begins Thursday.

In the Netherlands, low-finishing Eredivise clubs have to battle top second-division teams to earn a berth in the first tier the following season. If each team is victorious in the first two matches, a third game is played.

Keep reading.....

The son of a military liaison at the Dutch Embassy in Washington, Pama lived in Bethesda until about age 5 before moving with his family back to the Netherlands. After high school and college, he played third-division soccer in the Netherlands and quickly transitioned into coaching and scouting. He accepted an offer to become the director of coaching for the Boise Alliance and later took a similar position for the Arkansas state association in Little Rock. He then moved to Atlanta, helping the U-18 Lightning win the 1998 national championship and creating the Redwings club.

Pama, 37, was preparing to give up soccer and enter the corporate world when, through a former player in the Netherlands, he was contacted by Cambuur about a front-office position. At the time, the club was having financial problems, not drawing spectators to its 10,000-seat stadium and struggling most years to finish in the top half of the Eerste Divisie. Eventually, Pama helped turn the club's fortunes.

With an American background, however, he needed to prove himself to a skeptical audience.

"Americans in football in Europe are not easily accepted," he said in a phone interview today. "You come from a third-world country in soccer. As Americans, we look at the possibilities, not the impossibilities. In Europe, they want to see it; they're more negative. I was working at a faster pace that they are used to."

Long overshadowed by provincial rival Heerenveen, Cambuur finished third in the league season with a 20-9-9 record and defeated Zwolle in the second round of the playoffs. The club lost the first game, then won the next two. Tickets to this week's opener against Roda were sold out in two hours.

"There's still a huge hurdle left," he said. "It's been quite a turnaround for us. The pressure is on Roda. No one else thought we would be in this position."

By Steve Goff  |  May 26, 2009; 4:07 PM ET
Categories:  Netherlands  
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Next: Wednesday Kickaround


if the redbulls are reading this...let the carousel begin again!

Posted by: troy6 | May 26, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

"As Americans, we look at the possibilities, not the impossibilities."

Amen, brother.

Posted by: joedoc1 | May 26, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

see, now this is a cool story and an exceptional use of the blog format, seƱor. I commend you. (that, and two bucks will get you a coffee)

Posted by: joshuaostevens | May 26, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Berhalter played there in an earlier millenium.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | May 26, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I actually saw Berhalter's Cambuur get run off the field by John O'Brien's Ajax on a trip to the AmsterdamArena in 2000. They weren't.... they weren't good. At least, I think I saw John O'Brien play competitive soccer. I may have been hallucinating.

Posted by: IamAM | May 26, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Good luck Alex. I'll be rooting for you.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | May 26, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | May 26, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

in case anyone is really bored:

These announcers are probably the worst I've heard so far.

Posted by: DadRyan | May 26, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

sorry, that is awfully boring itself.

Posted by: DadRyan | May 26, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

will there be a big article about the champions league final tomorrow on the post? I will be shock if there is not one with the fans spread through here. I have been surfing in other news sources so far.

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | May 26, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

If he was coaching the Lightning back then, he probably had Rico Clark on one of his teams. Cool story.

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey | May 26, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

(that, and two bucks will get you a coffee)

Posted by: joshuaostevens

you can get coffee in the DC area for two bucks? man, the crisis is worse than I feared.

Posted by: troy6 | May 27, 2009 3:58 AM | Report abuse

I am from Atlanta, and this guy had nothing to do with the 1998 National Championship team. Also, I am surprised by his success because here in Georgia he is thought as a BS artist.

Posted by: soccerglue | May 27, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Great story about Park, thanks.

Posted by: OWNTF | May 27, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Cool, I still have a Cambuur scarf from the Burhalter days. Maybe I will have to get it out for the series.

Posted by: lrg1231 | May 27, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

That's a pretty weak connection...

Posted by: MBUSA | May 27, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

He also has a great coach there; Stanley Menzo. (former AJAX goalie)

Posted by: DCNL | May 27, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I have found

Back Row: Coach Alex Pama, Ben Landis, Stephen Williamson, Dustin Danner, Brantley Spillman, Jermie Frankson, Roby Wood, Tye Smith, Aaron Eutermoser, Matt Doggendorf, Team Manager Mitzi Wood, Head Coach David Chadwick
Front Row: Jack Handy, Alex Balasko, Travis Larrison, Jarrod Blake, Justin Koehler, Marshall Leonard, Jim Hardin, Team Assisstant Charlie Gonzalez
Not Pictured: Ryan Richards

Check it out before you post "I am from Atlanta, and this guy had nothing to do with the 1998 National Championship team......"

Posted by: soccerglue | May 27, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

His success should be admirred because not many US citizens are doing big things in European soccer off the pitch....

Posted by: wildcatfbih | May 28, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

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