Centre athletes enjoying life and soccer while studying abroad
April 14, 2011 By Adam Boyer, assistant men’s soccer coach
Ariza ’12 (from left), as well as Austin Hall ’12 (not pictured), are
representing the Centre men’s soccer team while studying
abroad this term. One of the soccer stadiums they’ve visited is
Camp Nou (above) in Barcelona, Spain.
Jackson (above) has spent time practicing in Strasbourg.
Hall (above, in gray), who visited Denmark during Spring Break,
enjoyed the pick-up games in which he participated.
Martin (above), who is also taking part in Centre-in-Strasbourg,
says that he and Jackson have managed to practice at least three
times a week when not traveling.
Each year, it is certain that a few Centre soccer players will take advantage of the opportunity to travel abroad during the spring terms. And because more than 85 percent of Centre students study abroad, this should come as no surprise.
Locations such as Strasbourg, France; London, England; Madrid, Spain; and many others serve as home for these Centre athletes during their three-month stays overseas.
Head coach Jeb Burch, who himself spent a semester abroad in France, strongly encourages his players to take advantage of this opportunity. “I’m an avid supporter of Centre’s study abroad programs,” he says, “and in many ways, the absence of players who are abroad in the spring makes us a better team. There becomes an emphasis on our younger players who are on campus to carry the load while the upperclassmen are away. And it’s evident upon the return of our players that they are slightly different, more focused, but more at ease with themselves. The independence that comes from being abroad is a real positive for our guys.”
Currently, there are five Centre soccer players studying abroad: Tony Distler of Louisville, Austin Hall of Indianapolis and Alejandro Ariza of Bogota, Colombia, are abroad with the Centre-in-London program, while Chris Jackson of Oxford, Ohio, and Pat Martin of Monroe, Conn., are participating in the Centre-in-Strasbourg offering.
While their past few weeks have involved papers, exams, museum tours, lengthy travels and more, the students have found more than enough time for soccer while residing in these countries.
Hall, a team captain, two-time SCAC All-Conference selection and NSCAA All-Region performer, was fortunate enough to get tickets to the epic English Premier League match-up at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United on March 1. “We could walk to the game from the dorms, and our seats were pretty good, upper deck near the 18-yard box,” he says. “There’s definitely a unique energy to the stadium, something I’d never experienced before. One of the coolest parts is how much more apparent the players’ skills are in person. It’s truly impressive.”
Apart from getting to watch one of the greatest match-ups in today’s sporting world, Hall found some time to play some serious pick-up during his Spring Break, spent in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Needless to say, it was a blast,” he says of the trip and the pick-up soccer games he played there. “I was on a team with my Danish friend and a friend from Indianapolis. We actually did really well, winning four of our five games, and more importantly, earning some serious respect. They were all skillful players and very organized, but fitness was definitely missing for a few of them! Overall, it was a great experience.”
Distler, a team captain and three-time SCAC All-Academic member, also got to enjoy some professional English football, heading to the “The Valley” to see a League One match-up between the hosts, Charlton Athletic and Brentwood.
“Although I’ve yet to be able to attend a Premiership game as I had hoped, I was able to go to the Charlton Athletic versus Brentwood game of England’s League One,” he says. “I found it very entertaining being able to experience English football and its fans first-hand.”
Distler, too, was able to add a little soccer into his Spring Break journey, heading to Barcelona, Spain, with Ariza and meeting a few of his Centre Soccer teammates—Jackson, Martin, and Will Frentz—in the city.
“Barcelona was a great city, known most for its Catalan tradition,” Distler says. “Of course, my most memorable experience was checking out Camp Nou, the home stadium of La Liga champions Barcelona FC. While we weren’t able to see a game because the players were away on international duty, we were able to walk around and take a tour of the stadium. The stadium can host the largest number of spectators out of all stadiums in Europe, with 98,800 seats. It was an amazing experience to say the least.”
Martin and Jackson have been taking advantage of the soccer culture of Les Francais, training and playing pick-up as much as they can in Strasbourg. “Jackson and I have managed to play at least three times a week when not traveling, and try to get once a week in on travel weekends,” Martin says. “Most times we walk about 10 minutes through the city to the military outpost where they have fields. If there are people there, we try to jump on. So far, we’ve gotten into a few pickup games there with a pretty good level of play.”
Martin and Jackson are also looking forward to watching some professional games from the various leagues around the area. “Living in Strasbourg has given me the unique opportunity to experience a wide variety of leagues within a feasible traveling distance,” he adds. “Strasbourg has its own team, Racing Club de Strasbourg, who currently sit in the French 3rd Division. This Saturday we went to a game—Strasbourg defeated Pacy 1-0 on a goal in the 75th minute. You could feel the energy of the place. RCS has their typical diehard fans in the corner, equipped with megaphones, flags, horns and drums. I had seen videos of their chants, songs and cries on YouTube, but it is truly something one must witness firsthand. Even in a relatively empty stadium, their presence was felt.”
In a long line of Centre Soccer players who have enjoyed time spent abroad, Hall, Ariza, Distler, Jackson and Martin were all very quick to praise their overseas experiences thus far.
“I can’t say enough positive things about my time spent here in Strasbourg and traveling around Europe,” Jackson says. “It’s been an amazing journey of eye-opening experiences spent with my best friends in the world. Being surrounded in a foreign country on a day-to-day basis by my Centre classmates, and more significantly my Centre soccer teammates, has been truly special.”
Distler echoed Jackson’s statements, commenting on his time abroad and the impact it’s having on his pending senior season: “My time abroad has been one of my best life experiences; I’ve been enjoying a completely different culture and taking classes in one of the world’s greatest cities. I look forward to enjoying my remaining time in London before heading back to Centre for my senior season.”
The five Centre Soccer players abroad will return home in May after what will have been a 12-week terms in Europe. Less than three months after their return, they’ll be back in a Centre soccer uniform, training hard in preseason for what will be each of their senior seasons. “We can’t wait,” Hall stated. “We’re all feeling refreshed and ready to go for our senior years. It’s time to win a conference championship!”
For more information on Centre College’s study abroad programs, click here.