2002 Men's Soccer
International players bring the world to Bluffton College soccerBy Tim Stried, SID
September 12, 2002
|Bluffton College junior Diego Rodriguez is one of four international players on the
For some Bluffton College students, a cross-cultural experience lasts just a matter of days and takes them to destinations around the world. The student-athletes on the BC men's soccer team, however, have a cross-cultural experience everyday right here on campus.
Four members of the Beaver soccer squad this year are international students that not only are expanding their horizons by being collegiate athletes in America, but are opening the eyes of Bluffton's Midwest-born players to the world of international soccer and friendship.
Head coach Randy Keeler, who is now in his 10th season and owns a school record 43 wins, has the enjoyable task of working with these young men and molding them into a competitive squad.
"The international players bring the world to us," said Keeler. "It's a stretching experience for some of our players because there are some cultural differences to overcome."
The 2002 team includes junior Esuga Abaya (Nigeria, Africa), sophomore Caspar Agyeman-Duah (Ghana, Africa), junior Diego Rodriguez (Argentina) and junior Jean-Paul Tiendrebeogo (Burkina-Faso, Africa). All four players lived in the United States for a period of time during their high school years, which is when they discovered Bluffton College and were recruited by Keeler.
On the field, those four players have found the game a bit different than the one they played as children in their native lands.
"The focus is much more team-oriented here," said Rodriguez, who has been a first-team All-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference selection each of his first two seasons. "Team unity is much greater here and there are more players who play for fun."
Keeler echoed those thoughts. "International players tend to like to go one-on-one more than the American players. If they've had extensive playing experience the international players have been a big help because they can see the whole field better and have a better sense of where to be."
But perhaps what happens off the field has the greatest impact on both the international players and their American teammates.
"When they [American players] hear our countries mentioned in the news," said Rodriguez, "they have an interest in what's happening and ask us about what's going on."
And for the international players, soccer is much more than a game.
"Soccer has helped me to make friends, both on the field with my teammates and off the field with all the people that come to our games," he said. "Soccer is my best friend. I have no real family here, but when I'm on the soccer field, I'm with my family. I feel like I'm at home."
So while playing soccer may not appear on any academic transcript, perhaps what teaches these young men the most about the world and themselves while they were at Bluffton College actually happened far away from any classroom.
Perhaps the best lessons in life always are.
Special to The Bluffton Magazine