They are called the Washington Diplomats, but Deplomats of the United Kingdom might be more appropriate. Of the 19 players on Washington's soccer team, 12 are from England or Scotland.
However, the British-born Dips say they feel right at home in this area. "My wife and I both love the life over here. It's a much easier life than at home. Here you can just throw on a shirt and trousers to go almost anywhere.It isn't like that back home."
Most of the players in the North American Soccer League are foreign. The Dips have just five native Americans on their roster.
The majority of the players were recruited by former coach Dennis Viollet, a native of England and a longtime player for Manchester United in the English, First Division. Viollet spent much of the offseason in England recruiting.
Getting player to come to the United States is not as difficult as it once was. The NASL has now established itself as a legitimate enterprise and players are eager to come over.
Some come to the United States because they are offered lucrative contracts. Some come to make money during what is the offseason in their country. But, for many of the Diplomats, coming to America meant more than a chance to make a few extra dollars.
Hill, whose soft-spoken manner belies his tough, aggressive play, grew up in a tiny town called Aylsham. He finds the amenities of American life attractive and would like to settle here.
"It's so nice to be able to get to almost anywhere in just a few minutes," he said. "Even though I lived near Coventry growing up, there just weren't as many things like good restaurants, as here. If you go into a restaurant here, you're almost certain to get a good meal."
Most of the Dips live in small colonies around town, Hill lives in McLean with a group that includes Mike Lester, Tony Macken and Gene Mishalow. Another group, headed by goalkeeper Eric Martin, lives in Columbia and has been dubbed "C. C.'s Raiders." (The C. C. stands for Columbia Contingent.(
A few do not live in the colonies. Coach Alan Spavin has a house in Silver Spring and Johnny Kerr has one in Falls Church.
Despite the fact that many of the Dips are in their first year with the team they are a close-knit group and spend a good deal of time together off the soccer field.
"It's nice to be able to go out with the lads and relax, especially after a match, said Martin, an acknowledged team leader. "We talk about the game, talk about what problems we're having, what we need to do to correct them.
"We try to talk about why we're losing. Part of our problem has been that we've had a lot of bad luck. We point that out to one another so we won't get down on ourselves."
Veterans Martin, Kerr and GaryDarell remained in Washington during the offseason and conducted soccer clinics at local schools. Kerr, who coordinated the program, hopes to see it continue.
"I enjoy working with the kids," the blond Scotsman said. "My son (who is 12) plays soccer and I help coach his team. It seems like I spend almost all of my time with him. If he's not playing soccer then it's baseball.
"I'd like to settle in this area when I'm through playing," he continued. "I've played in New York and Detroit and I really enjoy Washington. My family loves it here, too.
"The pace of life here is so nice. Let's face it, New York is just a pungle. And the opportunities in this area and in the entire country are almost unlimited for a soccer player."
"I would like to remain in Washington and I would like to remain with the Dips," said Spavin, who was named coach for at least the remainder of the season last week. "I think soccer in this country is ready to explode and I'd like to be a part of it. I've worked very hard since I got here four years ago."
Some of the Dips enjoy night life while others prefer home life. All agree on one thing, however - American bars are not the same as English pubs.
"I think that the one thing I miss most are the bars," Hill said. "It's just not the same over here. Back home, we used to go to a nice quiet place and sit around and enjoy ourselves. Here, you always have music or something going. I used to go out to a bar with friends twice a week back home but I don't do that here. It does please the wife, though," he added with a smile.
Since they are not American citizens, wives who want to work find getting a job difficult. Most spend days when their husbands are away with one another or with their children.
"My wife worked back home and if we get to stay over here she'll get a job," said Hill. "At first, when we got here's she was a little nervous about going out by herself. But now she's fine. We've made a lot of American friends and we spend a good deal of time with them. The people here have been so friendly and helpful, it's been great."
Almsot every member of the team agreed that friendliness of people in this area has been one of the most gratifying things about playing here.
"Everyone has been just great ever since we got here," Martin said. "I think the people are what I like best about being here. They've always made us feel at home."
The No. 1 sport among the Dips aside from soccer is golf. To a man, however, they give the same answer as to how they play. "Badly."
While the players love almost everthing about Washington and the United States, they say it isn't perfect."There's one thing I can't stand about America," Martin said in his best Scottish brogue. "The soap operas. They drive me crazy. My wife loves them. Everyday she's got them on. It's terrible. And," he added his voice rising, "Darrell watches them too. Can you believe that?"