Irish people are famously welcoming, but things can get a bit more serious when it comes to soccer—or football as it’s called abroad.
So, when Hayden Laske ’24, Joe Mepham ’24, and Jason Brodeur ’24 showed up to join a tournament with the team at Munster Technological University in Cork, Ireland, where the student-athletes are studying abroad this semester, they were met with some raised eyebrows.
“The coach put up some of his best guys against us right away,” said Mepham ’24, a midfielder from Sudbury, Mass. But, to the surprise of the Irish team, “we ended up beating them,” Mepham added.
“A lot of hard tackles and trash talk were thrown our way early on but once we had the chance to prove ourselves on the field, the guys started to open up to us,” said Laske.
Afterward, some players approached their American opponents with a few questions.
“They’re like, ‘Are you lads on scholarship?’” recalled Brodeur, a forward from Hanson, Mass. “And then they’re like, ‘I thought Americans weren’t good at football!’ So that was a funny little story.”
There’s a common misconception that going abroad will be too disruptive for an athlete’s schedule. But Dean of International Education Warren Jaferian wants to make it clear that not only should student-athletes study abroad, but they may also find new opportunities within their host countries, too.
“We work with our partners abroad to locate the best possible strength training and conditioning facilities and coaches to ensure that our student-athletes maintain or exceed the level expected for them to be successful upon their return to Endicott,” said Jaferian.
Meanhile, in Spain, midfielder Tiago Frazao ’24 and forward Max Karkos ’24 added soccer to their experience in Madrid, where they’re studying at CIS University. They’re currently playing with the Segunda División de la Fútbol Emotion MF7 League where, in late March, “we were able to win the final and become champions!” said Frazao.
The players were also placed on the A team for C.F. Valdebebas.
“Since it’s around a two-month process to enter the Spanish Federation, we are unable to play games with them. However, we train two times a week with them and have an optional training on Fridays with their B team,” added Frazao.
They landed on Valdebebas through CIS, which has a partnership with PA Team Soccer Spain, a sports consulting organization that offers a range of opportunities across five continents, as well as personal training on and off the field. That training is now helping Jack Hayden ’24, a center back from Richmond, Vt., recover from a torn ACL.
“PA Team has been a huge help to us and is making sure we not only avoid falling behind in our sport but actually progress,” said Frazao. “This is something that many athletes fear about going abroad.”
In early March, the student-athletes in Cork received clearance from the Irish Federation to play for the club team Avondale United F.C.
“This is a more standardized European season,” said Laske, “and we will be able to play with them in the second half of their season throughout the spring. In span, they have roughly 10 league games remaining and are in the quarterfinals of the league cup as well.”
Beyond the ability to continue their sport, there’s also the aspect of playing soccer in Europe, where soccer is closer to religion and fans are more like fanatics.
Mepham said the opportunity to play—and not just train—during the spring semester, when the soccer season is dormant at Endicott, will help the players stay sharp for next fall.
“It’s huge that we’re playing soccer,” he said. “We’re not just slacking off while the rest of the guys back home are putting in a bunch of work. We’re playing, we’re staying in shape. And then we also get to play, like, 10 or 15 games, which isn’t normal for us if we were at Endicott.”
The Cork crew has attended a few Cork City F.C. games so far and looks forward to watching Fiorentina, Florence’s local team, play when traveling to Italy to visit friends from Endicott.
As for any doubt that these Americans are serious about soccer—that’s now vanished, said Laske.
“Flash forward to now and our teammates are constantly offering us rides to and from practices and games, messaging us through text, or inviting us for nights out,” he said. “We couldn’t be more thankful for the guys or the overall culture of the group and are looking forward to helping hopefully win some trophies by the time we return home.”
Applications for study abroad are due by April 14. Apply now.