Playing around the world

Mentally and physically, soccer is a challenging sport. It demands total concentration and pushes each player to the limit on the field. This is what captivated senior Christopher Ryan as he pursued soccer throughout the years and motivated him to attend an international tournament last summer.

Ryan first started playing soccer when he was six years old. Throughout the years, he has improved his ability, and the sport has evolved into more than just a hobby.

“It’s a passion––[soccer] is what I do,” Ryan said. “When I play, it’s a different feeling. It just makes you feel like a different person. You don’t think about the world, you just go out there and have fun.”

Through his club team, Legends FC, Ryan was introduced to the Gothia Cupthe largest international soccer tournament for youth. The Cup is held annually over the course of a week in the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden, and this past summer, players from over 80 different countries attended. In total, about 1800 teams participated.

“You get to play against other countries, so it’s kind of like a youth World Cup,” Ryan said. “The experience made me realize that I have to work harder, since everyone outside of the country is really good. And it’s a different style of play so I realized that I needed to work on a couple of things as well.”

The tournament was organized similarly to the Olympic Games, with an opening ceremony prior to the event. The players from each country walked into the stadium, carrying flags and parading around the field.

“They were playing music and everyone was watching us. It was a special moment and a truly amazing experience,” Ryan said. “It was really exciting and I felt a huge rush of emotion. Looking around the stadium and seeing 80,000 people was a sight that I will never forget.”

There were three segments to the competition: the group stage, play-off B and lastly play-off A. Ryan and his team performed well in the group segment where they had numerous wins, but unfortunately lost during the quarter finals in play-off A.

“It was kind of disappointing,” Ryan said, “but also a good experience in the end. I learned a lot, just by being able to play against people from other countries, and I now know what I have to work on. Since practice started again, I’ve worked on being more ruthless and going after the ball more.”

Currently, Ryan also plays for Walnut’s varsity soccer team. After practice at school, he goes to his club and trains two hours a day, four days a week. A typical day consists of numerous conditioning and technique drills.

“Going to practice so often has really improved my skills,” Ryan said. “And after last summer, I’ve learned to not be scared of the ball, because the people out there weren’t scared, and that helped me improve. I’m always tired to go to practice but I keep going because I know it’ll pay off in the end.”

After graduating, Ryan wants to continue practicing soccer and is thinking of pursuing a career in the sport. He plans on playing for Mt. SAC and then transferring to a Division 1 college, which he hopes will land him a spot in playing professionally for the MLS.

“Of course practicing weekly gets tiring at times. But I’ve gotten used to it and again,” Ryan said. “Soccer is my passion and that motivates me to continue playing each day. I’ve also learned a lot about life [from soccer]. I’ve learned to never give up, and [that] I have to work hard for what I want.”

By Ashley Liang, Staff writer
Photo by Airi Gonzalez