Soccer club brings together players from around the globe


Soccer is a multicultural sport.

The five biggest leagues in the world are from five different countries: England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France. Two out of the five best players in the world are from South America and the rest are from Europe. None of those five are from the same country. The biggest tournament in sports, the FIFA World Cup, is in a different country every four years and is soon to have 48 countries attend.

The Augie Soccer Club’s roster reflects that. The team has a player from every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

“We have one of the most diverse clubs at Augie,” sophomore Bjorn Slattum said. “That’s one of the reasons I love playing here. You get to meet a lot of interesting people.”

The international nature of the team means that most of the members played it growing up. Slattum played for fun with friends since he was 13 years old. Others came to the sport differently.

Sophomore David Sanchez Perez, hailing from Venezuela, focused on baseball when he was younger.

“In Venezuela, baseball is the big thing,” Sanchez Perez said. “Some of the best professional players in the United States are Venezuelans.”

Sanchez Perez’s mother was worried her son might grow up and quit his studies to focus more on baseball. So, at a young age, his mom took him out of baseball and put him into soccer, a less prominent sport in Venezuela.

“I was terrible at soccer,” Sanchez Perez said. “It took me six years to actually learn how to play. Eventually I did, and I gained a spot on the primary team.”

After a mix of coaching complications and the complicated structure of youth sports in Venezuela, Sanchez Perez left the team in high school, but he never fully left the sport. His passion for it was something that would not go away. He played street soccer with his friends every week during high school. He went to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. A lot of his friends from home play abroad and in the U.S.

One woman who played in the same league as him, Deyna Castellanos, was a top three finalist for FIFA’s Best Woman Player in 2017. She currently plays at Florida State University and for the Venezuelan Women’s National Team.  

When Sanchez Perez arrived at Augie, a soccer team was among the first things he looked for.

“When I got here, I immediately wanted to find the soccer team because I knew I wanted to play, but also that I could meet people there who love soccer,” Sanchez Perez said.

The Augie Soccer Club is not sanctioned, which means there are a lot of difficulties in getting people to just suit up. There are no scholarships to entice players to devote time to the club. Everyone has to be in it for the love of the game and the camaraderie.

“Practices aren’t mandatory so we have to just hope people show,” Slattum said. “Since we are a club, we have to be really careful with how much money we spend. For [some] away games, we travel to North Dakota, which in itself is a three hour drive, so we are often short handed with the amount of guys we bring.”

The team has to pay to play in the league—pay for the referees, travelling and uniforms. Players provide themselves with equipment.

Soccer is one of the cheapest sports in the world, but good cleats, socks, shin guards and warm underclothes add up quick.

“It takes a lot of work and commitment,” Sanchez Perez said. “This year, I actually had to lend a pair of shoes to a freshman because I had two pairs and he did not have any.”

Finding a soccer pitch to play on is hard work enough. Morstad Field, Augustana’s soccer field, is mostly reserved for the women’s team, which is a sanctioned sport. The Soccer Club rarely plays on it.

For games, the leaders on the team typically draw up the tactics as the club cannot afford a coach. A basic soccer formation is a 4-3-3, meaning four defenders, three midfielders and three attackers with a goalkeeper in the net. Eleven players are total on the field, which means ideally there would be a few options for substitutes.

Soccer is an exhausting game. There is a lot of sprinting packed into two 45 minute halves, so using fresh legs is an important tactic for winning. For the Augie Soccer Club, it rarely works out that way.

“Let’s say that we travel and take 12 players, if we are lucky,” Sanchez Perez said. “So we only have one sub. Out of those 12 players, five are strikers, five are midfielders and only two are defenders. People have to play out of position for the entire game, so our formations are very fluid.”

Sanchez Perez also says that due to the team’s diversity, they have experienced racism during games.

“We’ve played teams that intentionally hurt us,” Sanchez Perez said. “Or they start insulting us with racist comments.”

But the high price does not mean that it is not worth it.

“I love soccer, and I know everyone else in the team loves it too,” Sanchez Perez said. “Even after losing, we keep playing and having fun because soccer is our passion. We wouldn’t give up on it in the worst of circumstances.”

The team has struggled on the pitch this year, with a record of 1-6. The losses have been close, decided by one goal a piece.

The Augie Soccer Club plays their final game at South Dakota State University this Friday at 6 p.m. in Brookings.


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