The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    One team, one game

    David Taintor

    If students were to go next Thursday night to Bollinger Fields they will notice many students playing different sports.

    Students might assume the language that’s spoken is English, but if they were to listen closely to the main soccer field while the “American Dream” team plays, all they would hear is:



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    “Watch out”

    “Don’t lose it”

    Yes, most of the time it’s a combination of English and Spanish. Even though the dominant language spoken by the team is English, senior Luis Riera said they only speak one language, “the language of soccer.”

    Back in the day
    Seniors Russell Dass, from Malaysia, and Don Gunaratne, from Sri Lanka, said they have been playing with people from all over the world for the past four years.

    “I believe the best season I played was probably last season,” Dass said. “We had a goalkeeper from Sri Lanka, defense controlled by England, Germany, and Spain, midfields with Spain, Malaysia, and Mexico, and a forward from Brazil.”

    Gunaratne agreed and said it was an amazing opportunity and he felt as though they have been playing together for a long time and the team has remained undefeated.

    “Would you ever get to see a team that has so many different nations?” Gunaratne said. “The most fascinating thing is the togetherness among us … even though we are from various parts of the world we were able to find so many things in common.”

    He said so far the names for their teams have been Respect 2 All, Team International, The Foreigners, World Wide, No Speak English and International.

    The team today
    Today the team’s name is “American Dream.”

    Since it is an international students’ intramurals team, and every semester international students come and go, every semester the team is different.

    For Gunaratne and Dass this team is particularly special, because it is their last semester in Eau Claire and their last chance to play intramurals.

    Dass said he has played intramurals in all the semesters he has been here.

    Riera, who came from Spain to UW-Eau Claire in the fall, was chosen to be the captain last semester.

    “I guess it’s because my soccer mates respect me and they trust me,” he said.

    There is also another Spaniard on the team, Gustavo De La Viña Estrada-Nora.

    Unlike De La Viña and Riera, who have being playing on the intramural’s team for one year, seniors Gunaratne and Dass have been playing together on the international intramurals team since 2005.

    Gunaratne has always been the goalie. He said all the players he has played with had a background of playing soccer.

    “They have either played in their childhood, high school, city clubs in their respective countries . I have never played soccer before.”

    Gunaratne said he started playing in spring 2005 when a “couple of Dutch guys, couple Spanish and a Somali” needed a goalkeeper.

    “I’ve been a national water polo player back in Sri Lanka,” he said. “Maybe because of that experience I found out that I had really fast (reflexes).”

    Unlike Gunaratne, this is the first semester that senior Gustav Engblom, from Sweden, along with senior Christoph Monschein, from Austria, have played on the intramurals international team. Both arrived in Eau Claire in January and joined the team soon after to fill the positions that were open from the previous international students that went back home.

    This year the team has three Americans, senior Alex Nash, junior Ryan Hughson and freshman Kurt Mueller.

    Nash said he has played intramural soccer for the past five years, but this is the third time he has played with an international team.

    The games
    Gunaratne said over the years the team has developed a reputation.

    “The campus knows about this soccer team . they know how difficult it is going to be to play against (us),” he said. “It’s amazing how so many different types of people click together when it comes to soccer.”

    Riera said the first time he played intramurals was the one he enjoyed the most.

    “We had so much fun, we even had cheerleaders,” he said in between laughs. “The games that we played were so hard, but in the end we won the championship.”

    Engblom said the best thing about playing with the guys is winning.

    “I’m sure we’ll win,” he said, “because the Spanish will score.”

    Whether it was playing with the team outdoors at Bollinger, or indoors at McPhee, Nash said he has equally enjoyed playing all games.

    “Winning the cup is always nice, but I just love playing,” he said.

    Gunaratne said he considers himself to be more effective playing indoors compared to outdoors, adding today he feels how much he has improved and is more confident as a goalie.

    “I may not be the best with solid soccer skills with my feet,” he said, “but I have learned how to block the goal.”

    Dass said he loves passing and dribbling, “also, I love shooting whenever I’m given a chance, and the team also takes shots when there are openings,” he said.

    Different language, different tactics
    Riera said he didn’t notice any difference between the team’s he’s played.

    “There was and there is a really good spirit team,” he said. “If the team keeps together, everything is possible.”

    Nash said the biggest difficulty was learning to play the different styles of different countries.

    “Foreigners generally have better foot skills,” he said, “but Americans usually hustle more on the field.”

    Dass said the main difference he can see in all the teams he has played is the chemistry.

    “It will take a game or two for everyone to adjust on how each other plays the game,” he said. “Sometimes I feel lost at the first games because I won’t know what to expect from the players that I’m playing.”

    Engblom said in soccer it doesn’t matter that they don’t speak the same first language.

    “I would say that there are no difficulties playing with people from different parts of the world,” he said.

    For Riera, he said there was a little bit of a language barrier.

    “Is an obstacle to not be able to communicate comfortably,” Riera said. “Sometimes I want to say things to my teammates but I don’t know how to say them in English, so I just speak in Spanish and they answer me in their own language.”

    Riera said if students were to come to one of their games they can hear them yelling and speaking in four or five different languages.

    Gunaratne agreed and said not everyone’s English fluency is the same.

    “Most of us are very comfortable to use our mother tongue when it comes to soccer,” he said. “There were times when the Spanish speak in Spanish and the Dutch speak in Dutch and they accidently talk to others who don’t speak their language during the game … we got communications issues then and its really funny at times.”

    One team, one game
    Dass said it wasn’t difficult to play with people from other parts of the world.

    “It’s just that it takes a while before the team settles in and becomes comfortable,” he said. “Sometimes we play a couple of games, and then you can point out . who gives long passes, who can run really quick, who doesn’t have stamina, and who likes to dribble. It’s not difficult, but once this is all figured out, that’s when the game becomes beautiful.”

    Riera said it doesn’t matter where they are from, in the end everybody can speak and understand the passion behind this sport.

    Engblom echoed Riera’s thoughts.

    “I think one of the beauties of soccer is that it’s universal,” he said.

    Nash said they don’t have set positions in the court.

    “We all rotate because it’s more fun,” he said.

    Dass said he loves watching the different type of skills, from passing to shooting.

    “Everyone has something unique to put on the table, which is really great,” he said. “After a big game, we go out . and talk about it. I really love playing with all the guys.”

    Gunaratne said most of the members of the team are likely to be friends outside the soccer.

    “The feeling (we have), it’s more than a soccer game,” he said. “I’ve felt most friendships have been built upon the international soccer team.”

    The American Dream
    This year the team already won the indoor soccer intramural. Right now they are playing the outdoor intramurals and have played three games so far. The team won their first game because the other team didn’t show up, De La Viña said.

    “We won our second game 4-0 and last week we won 2-0,” he said.

    Riera said the team is competing with four other teams, adding so far their team is doing well.

    “We are in a group with four other teams. Whichever team wins the most games wins,” he said. “We already won three games, so we are doing really good this intramurals round. We have really good players and I hope we are going to win the intramural T-shirts again.”

    Tonight the guys won’t play, but next week, in the finals of the intramurals, the team said they hope to obtain one more victory.

    Dass said playing intramurals has given him the motivation to play better.

    “It’s something I look forward to every week,” he said. “I am not a superstar player, but I guess I am good enough to pass, and kick the ball.”

    He said Eau Claire has not only given him education, but it has also allowed him to play competitive soccer with friends from all over the world.

    “I’ve played soccer with students from Germany, England, Brazil, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Spain, South Korea, Austria, America, Sweden, and many more,” Dass said. “These are some of the best experiences I’ve had in Eau Claire.”

    Gunaratne said Eau Claire is not that diverse adding he has felt “the international soccer team is a good way to show our existence and represent the international community.”

    Riera said the best part about playing with the team was being able to play something that they all love and have fun playing.

    “It’s not the Champions League,” Riera said. “But I feel we are doing well. It’s always nice to win and it would be extraordinary to win the soccer intramural championships three times in a row.”

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