Andover’s Cem Worpel flies under radar in soccer

By Joanna Chadwick

Andover senior Cem Worpel’s love for soccer goes beyond a mere passion for playing the game.

“I come from a background — and countries — where it’s more than a game,” he said. “It’s where people gather. I have a German father who never pushed me, but he wanted to make sure I loved the game. I did.

“The fact that he didn’t push me made me want to push myself and be better at it. Soccer is part of my family’s life forever.”

Worpel has flown under the radar on the Wichita-area soccer scene, which is puzzling.

Maybe it’s because he’s a defender, so he’s not scoring at a fiendish rate. Or maybe it’s because Andover has struggled as a team during his career.

But there’s no doubt that Worpel is special.

His club soccer team took second in nationals the summer before his freshman season. Midway through his freshman year at Andover, he was given the captan’s armband.

“It was a lot of pressure. I knew some of the older players wouldn’t like it, but at the end of the day, I believe I earned their respect,” Worpel said. “It was an accomplishment my coach gave me, and it made me work harder.”

The summer before his sophomore season, his club team won nationals in a shootout. He also earned first-team honors, which is voted on by coaches.

He was selected to the Adidas Select team that was invited to train with the club Ajax in Amsterdam. Then they played and beat — the first Adidas Select team to do so — the academy Ajax team.

Worpel was named captain for that All-Star team.

“I was the only player from Kansas,” Worpel said. “We were just a bunch of guys who loved soccer and were happy to be there. But we wanted to compete, and we wanted to expose ourselves as much as possible to coaches.

“The challenge in Europe is a lot stronger. In the U.S., it’s more about strength, size and athleticism. But players in Europe are so good at moving the ball.”

In the summer before Worpel’s junior season, he played with FC Wichita, the city’s semipro team.

“I got to experience college soccer,” Worpel said.

Dallas Fiszel, who coaches Worpel’s club team, focused on leadership when he broke down the senior’s attributes.

“When we travel across the U.S., I get the compliment that his leadership is off the roof,” Fiszel said. “He’s constantly talking on the field, directing, coaching…. Even when he’s on the sideline hurt, he’s coaching.”

But Worpel has the physicality and skills, too.

“He’s strong, he’s fast, he can get up in the air,” Fiszel said. “In the higher level of soccer, you have to know how to play out of the back and use their feet — he does a great job playing out of the back.

“You’re not going to pass him without him catching up or taking you down with him.”