South America: the heart of soccer, or as locals call it, “futbol,” a place that recently hosted the Olympics, and a recent host to the PLNU men’s soccer team.
The 25-man roster traveled to Medellín, Colombia in the beginning of August to partner with an outreach program focused around soccer as a means of reaching out to the youth: Club Deportivo Union Cristiano (CDUC). CDUC has a campus in Medellín where the team stayed, as well as where it competed. The trip acted as preseason training with four different matchups. Tyler Allen, a senior defender, was impressed with the level of play that they faced.
“The opponents we faced were very technical, even the young ones,” said Allen. “They had a different passion for the game because soccer is all they had. It was their escape from problems they had at home or school.”
Playing four games in eight days is tough for any athlete, but for the men’s team, it was simply an opportunity to get to know their teammates better on and off of the field. Dylan Roberts, a junior transfer, enjoyed the trip and the fact that it offered a platform for them to bond over.
“This trip was massive in terms of team bonding,” Roberts said. “We were able to come together as one and grow from teammates to friends. The experiences we shared together in Colombia will last forever. That’s huge heading into season; we all have each other’s back regardless [of] the circumstances.”
Soccer was a great opportunity for the players, but the coaches also had a big take-away from it. Head coach Phil Wolf was the one behind-the-scenes, seeing this trip come to life. Though the preseason aspect of it was important to him, he wanted to accommodate his players’ walk with God as well.
“The ministry aspect is our primary focus but because of when we are making this trip, it is going to be part of our preseason preparation,” said Wolf. “It is both an inward and outward ministry for our team.”
The idea of forcing the men to step out of their comfort zones was one that challenged and encouraged them. Tyler Allen enjoyed the different atmosphere, but recognized that some of their opponents were not what they expected.
“A lot of us have never been in an environment like that before. We played in a prison against inmates… a humbling experience, but scary.”
Playing the prison was an opportunity to enjoy soccer with individuals who are at various points of their life, as well as use a common interest to minister to the prisoners.
This trip has propelled the men into a strong start to the season. Conference play begins on Thursday in Riverside against California Baptist, where the men are seeking their first ever PacWest Title.