As the World Cup Russia 2018 comes to an end, two students here shared their passion for the game. Martin Calderon and Belen Luna both were introduced at a young age to soccer, a sport that is continuously growing in the United States.
Soccer is increasing in popularity faster than any other sports in the U.S. In fact, the big three of American sports — football, basketball and baseball — have declined in popularity while soccer has claimed more fans who call it their No. 1 sport, a recent poll revealed.
According to a Gallup poll, soccer is closing in on America’s pastime: baseball, the favorite sport of 9 percent of American adults. The poll said 7 percent of all adults in the U.S. consider soccer to be their favorite sport. Soccer ranks fourth among all sports, according to the Gallup poll conducted Dec. 4-11, 2017.
History junior Martin Calderon, a soccer player on the Texas A&M University–San Antonio team, said soccer is gaining acceptance because younger generations are realizing the sport is far more exciting, different, and nothing can be predicted.
“It’s new, it’s fresh and not something old,” Calderon said.
Growing up with a Mexican mother who loves soccer inspired Calderon to start his journey at 6 years old as a soccer player at Monterrey Park in San Antonio.
“My mother taught me everything I know, and I fell in love with the sport,” he said.
Calderon and his family gather to watch soccer games. Some of the matches he has watched from the World Cup Russia 2018 are Sweden vs. Mexico, Sweden vs. Brazil, Mexico vs. Germany, Brazil vs. Costa Rica and Sweden vs. Germany. However, Calderon’s favorite team is Mexico, because his family is from that country.
Two students with the same passion share different experiences.
Belen Luna, biology freshman, became interested at 10 years old when a family friend, Tia Robles, volunteered to teach her how to play. Robles taught her the basics including the difficult move of bumping the ball with the head without closing her eyes.
Luna has kept up with several World Cups since then, such as the ones that took place in Brazil in 2014 and Africa in 2010. For the World Cup Russia 2018, Luna has watched several games, such as Mexico vs. Sweden, Mexico vs. Korea, Costa Rica vs. Brazil and Serbia vs. Brazil. She roots for Mexico, because her mother is originally from Mexico.
Javier Hernandez and Guillermo Ochoa are two players from the Mexico team she looks up to.
“I like Hernandez a lot because he is so passionate, he is that one person who brings the team together. And Ochoa, I would like to be as good as him if I were to ever be a goalie,” she said.
Although Luna has never had the opportunity to be part of a soccer team, she is interested in joining the A&M-San Antonio women’s soccer club.
“I would like to be a goalie,” Luna said. “I’m really thinking about trying out, because I know tryouts are coming up soon, but I would like to see how that would work with my school schedule and work,” she said.
Tryouts for the A&M-San Antonio women’s soccer team and men’s soccer club will be held early August for any incoming or current students who are interested in participating.
Communication junior Aldo Cortes, president of the men’s soccer team, said tryouts will take place at the university’s auxiliary field and will last approximately two hours. Tryouts will give students the opportunity to demonstrate their skills on the field.
Team members must maintain a GPA of 2.5 or above. A&M-San Antonio men’s soccer club will play against a variety of colleges and universities, such as Northwest Vista, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of the Incarnate Word.
Students interested in trying out can visit the Texas A&M University-San Antonio JagSync site for any additional information or may also contact Cortes at 210-995-8915.
“Individuals trying out must have a willingness to learn, have an open mind, always remain positive no matter what and be open with criticism,” Calderon said.
The university also has a women’s soccer club, which has more information on JagSync.