Moving out of state for college can be difficult, but moving halfway across the world is unimaginable for many students. For four members of the men’s soccer team, this elongated distance from home is a reality.
The Pirates added freshman Marcos Estebaranz from Spain to go along with the addition of two other international players, one from Budapest, Hungary in Lorant Lettner, and another from Ontario, Canada in Nathan Boatswain. The Pirates also added a sophomore from Catagena, Colombia in Andres Arcila.
In leaving home, each player goes through an adjustment period. Whether it is learning a new language or adjusting to a new style of soccer, the international players who enter Seton Hall for the first time go through a bit of a culture shock, according to head coach Gerson Echeverry.
“For some of these guys it can be a bit of a shock,” Echeverry said. “Between the surroundings, the whole aspect of college, NCAA rules, and going to school at the same time where, in other countries, you either go to school or you play soccer, it can definitely be a shock.”
One of the biggest issues that can arise when traveling to a new country is learning a new language. Despite the number of international players coming from a handful of countries, Echeverry said there really is no language barrier with this team.
“For the most part, the soccer terminology is pretty similar,” Echeverry said. “They all speak English, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. Sometimes you get someone with a heavy accent but we can understand each other and it’s not an issue.”
These first-year international players are not alone, however. Seton Hall soccer teams have had a history of recruiting players who hail from international waters. While there are only four first-year international players on the team this season, there are four other international players on the roster for them to lean on, one of which is team captain Julian Spindler.
Even with other players on the team that the first year players can lean on for support, like many other first-year students at Seton Hall, Estebaranz also turns to the freshmen he has met in his short time in South Orange.
“All the freshmen back in Boland Hall have helped me a lot,” Estebaranz said. “Andres (Arcila) has also helped, and him being from Colombia has helped, because I understand him well.”
While adjusting to life in the United States can be hard for first-year student-athletes from international countries, adjusting to a new style of soccer can make the experience more complicated.
“I wanted to see a different type of soccer,” Estebaranz said. “At first I thought it would be the same but it’s not because the clock counts backwards instead of counting up from zero and there’s no added time. The biggest difference is that every game is a physical battle, everyone is really big and they don’t give the ball away easily. Also, if you beat your man, they are still behind you trying to get the ball away.”
Arcila echoed Estebaranz’s sentiments on the adjustment to the style of play in the United States.
“The biggest difference is that in most Hispanic countries we use less athleticism in every game,” Arcila said. “We care more about passing the ball, while in the United States you have to combine the ball (control) with the running and the strength.”
For Arcila, though, soccer was only part of the reason for coming to the United States.
“My parents sent me to the United States to study, too, because it is important to get an education,” Arcila said. “My parents always taught me to get an education because there will always be time to play soccer.”
For Arcila, the start to his Seton Hall career has been a positive one. He has played in all four of the Pirates’ matches, while tallying an assist on one of the team’s three goals this season. Arcila has also tallied nine shots, four of which have been on goal.
Likewise, Estebaranz has appeared in all four of the Pirates’ matches, though he has not registered a shot from the midfielder position.
Despite the strong performances from Arcila and Estebaranz, Echeverry still doesn’t feel the first-year players have fully adjusted to playing in the United States.
“It’s taken them a little longer to adjust to playing in the United States than we were hoping,” Echeverry said. “But it’s case by case. Some of them are starting to come around. It’s just a matter of getting games in. It’s a young group and we’re going to learn by trial and error.”
Kevin Huebler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hueblerkevin