Abi Wegner — Staff Writer
International athletes make up 50 percent of the men’s varsity soccer starting line-up. With about 30 percent of the entire varsity team being international, Dordt University has more diversity within their team than in previous years. There are men from Germany, Columbia, Spain, South Africa and more, this soccer team is representative of many cultures across the world.
Nikolas Begalke and Samuel Vogel (or as their teammates call them-Niko and Samu), are freshman on the varsity team from Germany. They speak of the brotherhood they have on the team.
“We spend a lot of time [together]. This is why I would say we have good chemistry,” Niko said. “Even though we see each other every day it is still a nice atmosphere.”
Out on the pitch, there are noticeable distinctions in how different individuals play. Niko and Samu recalled examples in which, even when playing the same game, competitors can execute play differently.
In Germany the game is “way more heated,” Samu said. “A lot more swearing and a lot more fouls than here; it is a very fair game.”
The referees are different, too, and Samu finds it difficult to adjust to the different strategies of the sport.
Although the game can be different in certain aspects, this enables players to have certain strengths that others may lack.
“I think the [greatest] advantage we have is we don’t get distracted if the game gets heated. We don’t care as much,” Samu said.
Diversity enables teams to have success through having players with varying areas of expertise.
“For example, one player might have more technical abilities, and the other player has more strength, so it is really interesting,” Nico said.
The men’s soccer team has been successful this season so far and already outperformed their statistics from last year. According to NAIA statistics, in the 2021 season the men finished with 3 wins, 13 losses and 2 draws. This season the team is at 3 wins, 2 losses and 3 draws, with much more of the season still to play.
At their away game against Midland, the boys pulled off a 1-0 win. As the ball flew into the back of the net, the fans went wild and the sounds of cheers from the women’s team watching filled the stadium. The anticipation and anxiety heightened for the rest of the match as the men defended their way to the end of the game.
As soon as the final whistle blew, the team exploded. Men on the pitch and on the bench ran towards each other in triumphant joy and leaped to hug one another. The excitement and overall relief of winning a match is an unbelievable feeling many of the players experienced that day.
Coach Ryan Gresse has been Dordt’s head men’s soccer coach for four years. In the midst of an abundance of international players, Gresse emphasizes the players’ individual character and skill rather than their home country.
“For me, it doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Gresse said. “If you fit the culture of Dordt, I think that is what’s most important.”
He believes it is most important to follow Dordt’s goals as a team, building servant leadership and academic development.
Gresse agrees there is a difference in styles of play between players, but highlights that there are great teams all across the world. Playing soccer at a high level, no matter where, will ensure good results.
“The good thing is they bring different experiences on the field but off the field too. Culturally you get to learn [new things].” Gresse said.
He once had a conversation with one of his international players about eating lunch too late here in America, and how even that is a weird adjustment.
Gresse emphasized the importance of “just appreciating where everybody comes from, and [that] everyone has different, unique gifts and backgrounds that you can learn something from.”
The team has been successful this season so far, and the players and coaches look hopefully toward the future of this season and those to come.
Even through challenges, such as injuries or losses, the bond the men have made helps make sure the team can thrive.
“That’s what drives all of us. Yeah, we want to be a successful team, but success isn’t just on the field,” Gresse said. “[It is in] how we act, how we behave, how we keep each other accountable.”
Gresse is hopeful that the men will continue to carry out these ideals in the future, not only on this team, but beyond.