March 28, 2015
WASHINGTON - Throughout the world, children play soccer at the park or in their yard and pretend to face off against the best in the world. Somewhere right now, a young player is imagining dribbling past Messi or defending Tevez to the roar of the crowd. That dream came true for members of the Georgetown men's soccer team this week as the student-athletes had an experience of a lifetime.
The Argentine National Team came to campus to train on Shaw Field for the week leading up to a friendly against El Salvador on Saturday at FedEx Field. The best player in the world on their pitch was pretty amazing and the opportunity to see Argentina in person would have been enough, but there was more.
The team needed players to spar with during training and asked the members of the Georgetown squad to attend sessions as practice players. All of a sudden, their dreams of sharing a pitch with international superstars were a reality.
"It was amazing being out here playing with some of the best players in the world," said freshman midfielder Arun Basuljevic (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac). "When you think about it, this is probably the best attack in international soccer and to be able to come here on our home field is an unbelievable opportunity and one that we'll never forget."
Head Coach Brian Wiese organized his players, ensuring that practice would not interrupt class schedules and trying to get every student-athlete an opportunity to participate in a session. He even called in some former players to add to the numbers.
On Tuesday, many team members attended an open practice watching their heroes along with hundreds of others surrounding Shaw Field, trying to get a glimpse, photo or coveted autograph.
On Wednesday, it was time to play.
After a short warmup, the Argentine coaching staff told Wiese what he needed the Hoyas to do and it began. The jitters were there early on as the members of the Georgetown team tried to move the ball on offense, but were careful not to go into challenges too hard. As the practice wore on, it was less about lining up against Messi and more about playing the sport that had been a part of their lives since they were young.
"This was a great opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be on the field with players of this quality," said sophomore forward Alex Muyl (New York, N.Y./Bard). "For us it's an inside look at what they're doing in training sessions and how it parallels with what we're doing. At the same time, it was a treat for us and we're happy to host them. We hope they have a good experience so other teams come here as well."
Although the nerves calmed, it was obvious that those on the field and the sidelines were savoring the opportunity. Every good Hoya play was met with big smiles and cheers, and every impressive Argentine play was followed by awe and amazement from the Georgetown coaches and players.
"I got a few toe pokes in there every once in a while, just did the best I could," said freshman Declan McCabe (Weston, Mass./The Rivers School).
While the players were in awe of their opponents, the opportunity also humanized some of the most decorated athletes in the world.
"It's the guys you grew up watching on TV and now you're on the same field with them," said senior midfielder Austin Martz (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg). "It makes you realize that they're real humans, and it's a fun experience to be able to be there with them. Just to know they just want to have fun playing ball, and we just want to have fun playing ball. There's just a mutual respect there that we both love the game, so that's what makes it fun."
As the first day of practice came to a close, it was obvious that this wasn't just an ordinary training session for the Hoyas. The Argentine team exited the field to hordes of fans lining up to get an autograph. However, the luckiest people on campus that day walked silently past the crowds back to their locker room to shower, grab a bite and get back to studying before another big training day tomorrow.
Tickets are still available for Saturday's game at FedEx Field by clicking here. The team will then travel to New York for a friendly against Ecuador on Tuesday at MetLife Stadium.