Westland High School soccer standout Matt Walker is using an international excursion to not only add to his soccer resume but also as an educational experience.

Westland High School soccer standout Matt Walker is using an international excursion to not only add to his soccer resume but also as an educational experience.

Walker has been invited to play for the U.S. 16-year-old sports ambassador team in the World Friendship Games, which is June 28-July 7 in Vienna, Austria.

The games will be sanctioned by People to People International. On its Web site, the organization, which was founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, said it enhances international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures.

Walker, who will be a junior, received an invitation to the games after attending camps at Wilmington College and Denison University and going through an interview process.

"I'm looking to meet new people, see new cultures and look at the way that Europeans are different than Americans, and hopefully just have a good time," said Walker, whose parents are Robert and Rhonda Walker.

"They are really big on soccer over there and I have to get use to saying football instead of soccer because most Europeans know it as football. Getting use to the change is going to be different."

Former U.S. national coach Steve Sampson is expected help the athletes during the first three days of training.

The games will feature an Olympic style opening ceremonies and several sports, including soccer, basketball, baseball, bowling and wrestling.

Other countries expected to participate in the soccer event include Germany, England, Canada, Ireland and Spain.

Walker, a left outside midfielder, hopes the trip will help him prepare for the fall season.

"I'm coming back on the second day of team camp, which is like a two-a-day type thing if you're thinking football terms," Walker said. "I'm hoping I can bring the mentality and the style that Europeans play since it seems that Europeans play better soccer than Americans just because they have been playing it longer."

"Playing in a different country with different people and different circumstances can only be good," Westland coach Dan Heckler said. "Matt will get a lot out of it. Anything that he gets out of it he will bring back to the team. It might just be a better understanding of how to work with different kinds of people. If he works with Steve Sampson he might bring back some stuff that is immense, and whatever he learns there our team tends to learn from each other."

Walker began playing soccer at age 3 in the Westland Youth Athletic Association. He joined the Grove City Youth Association at age 12.

"When I changed teams from the Westland youth association to Grove City I took a big step and started playing top teams in the state," Walker said. "The players that I was around just made me feel like I could go far."

Walker plays the sport year-round as he is in his fifth season as a member of the Grove City Magic Club, playing under coach Tim Cox.

"I'm not surprised," Cox said of Walker's invitation. "At least half my kids could be able to do it. A lot of it has to do with putting forth the effort. Most of these kids have been playing since they were 6, 7 years old. A lot of them that start at that age very seldom will stick with it. Matt has stuck with it since the beginning.

"The Friendship Games is a very high-end tournament. Anytime you go over and play against the European teams, we know they're the best of the best. There's a lot of countries and a lot of towns over there that live and die by their soccer programs."