Swarthmore’s unique appeal that it brings to its students includes small classes, individual attention, and thus, a world-class academic experience. What many within the Swarthmore community may not know, however, is the enormous effort and resources put toward enriching the experience of student varsity athletes. These resources not only include great facilities and staff, but also travel schedules and excursions that would make anyone on campus envious. These international trips are paid for through a combination of athletic-specific donations, fundraising, and personal contributions by team members at a fixed price. Similar to Swarthmore’s mission, the school aims to make sure no one is denied the opportunity to participate out of lack of affordability.
The Varsity Men’s Soccer Team recently traveled to Barcelona, Spain, to practice and bond as a team before the commencement of their fall season. The trip extended nearly two weeks from Aug. 1st to Aug. 13th and included almost the entire men’s team’s roster. In previous trips the men’s soccer team has traveled to other exciting destinations including Greece, Brazil, Argentina, and the Czech Republic.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia Spain, the northeastern region of the country, known for its distinct culture and language. Barcelona captures a beautiful assortment of both modern and gothic architecture, has scenic beaches, and offers food and other customs unique to the region. The team toured the historic town of Girona, La Sagrada Familia Church, and FC Barcelona’s famous Camp Nou Stadium.
The team organized and participated in four matches against fourth division men’s amateur teams in the region of Barcelona. Their record included one win, one draw, and two losses. The results weren’t exactly what the team was hoping for, as they found some unanticipated challenges on this seemingly perfect trip.
Daniel Lee ’20, a rookie standout last year, explained the unanticipated obstacles the team faced.
“Something we had to overcome as a team was quickly adapting to Spanish/European soccer. For instance, the Spanish referees opposed physical play more than referees in the United States.”
Though their opponent’s style of soccer was foreign, the team was able to turn their defeats into important learning experiences before the start of their actual season.
Trevor Homstad ’20, commented on the improvement put in place following their mixed results.
“We kept a positive attitude throughout the trip and improved our communication skills on and off the field with one another,” Homstad said.
Starting goalkeeper Michael Thut ’19 was also surprised by the congeniality formed between teammates off the field.
“We spent every hour of every day with someone on the team, which included meals, practice, down time, the beach, even sleeping. It’s a big deal, and it’s very different from any other trip I’ve been on. Spending so much time together almost forces you to bond with everyone,” Thut said.
Their fourth and final match of the trip occurred on Aug. 12th against Club Esport Llerona, a club located in a small village 45 minutes away from central Barcelona. The team concluded the trip with a commanding 5-0 victory.
Their last day and victory was followed by a trip to a world-famous “El Clasico” match between leading Spanish soccer powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Any soccer fan’s dream, “El Clasico” did not disappoint. The iconic jerseys reading “Messi” or “Ronaldo” and the electric atmosphere was an experience of a lifetime for the recently victorious Swatties.
“When the players came out to warm up, the stadium went insane, and you could just feel the passion flowing through your body,” Homstad said.
Flying back stateside that next day, the Men’s Soccer Team brought back bonds and memories sure to help supplement the already diverse, interdisciplinary education that they receive at Swarthmore.