Rowdy crowds. Flags waving. Painted faces. And long journeys across the globe. All in support of your team. Soccer isn’t a sport; it’s a religion. Just ask the RIT Men’s Soccer team, who recently returned from a week-long trip to Barcelona. How did they spend their time in the second largest city in Spain? Playing soccer, of course. Day in and day out.
Though ticketed travel time may have shown a 26-hour journey one way, the trip was actually three years in the making.
“A lot of [schools with soccer teams that I was looking at] advertised the fact that they did overseas trips every four years … That was the one thing that RIT didn’t really have,” said Brett Dietz, a fourth year Civil Engineering Technology major, co-captain and mastermind behind the trip to Barcelona. In 2007, Dietz approached Head Coach Bill Garno with the idea of pursuing an overseas trip. “I’ve been bugging him about it for three years,” stated Dietz.
Thus began the planning phase. Garno worked with David Gregg, an RIT alum who played on the team from 1982 to 1983. Gregg runs Soccer Europa, a company that specializes in organizing team trips and tournaments in Spain and Portugal. Together, they finalized the itinerary. The tour of the Futbul Club Barcelona Stadium, lodging, complete breakfast and dinner, and airfare at Europe’s peak travel season would cost each person $3,000.
Obtaining the funds was no easy feat. The Tigers held soccer tournaments, worked for different organizations to gain contributions, and even sold RIT gear to alumni, friends and family. Together with additional support from alumni and RIT, who shouldered the cost for the three coaches and the team’s trainer, the team was able to raise enough money to pay for a little over half of the trip’s cost. The rest came out of the player’s pockets.
The Tigers now had the money. Everything was set. Then, two days before departure, David Vogt, a fourth year finance major and midfielder, broke his collarbone. He needed surgery, and, for him, it seemed as if the trip was ending before it even started.
On August 4, Garno, Vogt and Vogt’s mother stood in front of the screening area of the Greater Rochester International Airport. The rest of the team had already passed through security with ease. They stood cellphone in hand. There were only a few minutes left until boarding. Finally, a ring. Vogt would have to sit out the rest of the season, but he could travel provided that he return two days earlier than the team for his surgery.
The team arrived in Barcelona at 7 a.m. After checking into the hotel and a quick lunch, they proceeded right onto the training field. “We didn’t have much time to relax,” said Dietz. With three or four hours of sleep and jet lag kicking in, training was a challenge. “It wasn’t really intense, but you could see some of the guys were dying by the time it was over,” described Dietz.
For the next seven days, the team’s itinerary was routine. They rose at around 7 or 8 a.m., trained with RCD Espanyol’s Dani Sánchez, and then broke for lunch. “We’d grab lunch … usually at a little bistro on the corner of the street,” recounted Dietz. “They sell little thin baguettes for really cheap. [We would] buy a bunch and carry them around all day, snacking on them whenever we needed them.”
When they weren’t training, the team had the freedom of exploring the nooks and crannies of Barcelona. Las Ramblas, a series of streets located downtown, is one of Dietz’s favorite haunts. Lined with bars, pubs and shops, Las Ramblas is a sight at night. “Their coffee shops are open until 2 a.m., so people just go there and hang out. There are tables set up all along the streets; you can just go out there, relax and order food and drinks — whatever you want,” said Dietz.
Barcelona’s nightlife didn’t distract Dietz and his team from their main goal. They were here to train. “Our preseason training rules were in effect. We’re here to win the national championships ... We based all our decisions on that,” explained Garno.
On August 9, the Men’s Soccer Team played a friendly match against CF Atlčtic Poble Sec, a club team made up of players with ages ranging from early 20s to mid-30s. The Tigers lost 3-1. The very next day, the Tigers played CFS Premiŕ de Mar and lost 1-0. To say the least, the games were intense.
“[The Spanish teams were] a lot faster and more technical. We decided to play to our strengths, which is really just possessing the ball and playing as a team, because individually, they would rip us apart,” said Dietz.
According to Dietz and Garno, American soccer tends to be more high energy and fast-paced. American players usually rely on their strength, speed and teammates, whereas the Spanish players rely more on technique and ball control.
For the Tigers, Barcelona was all about soccer. Take a peek in the team’s luggage on the return trip home, and classic souvenirs such as shot glasses and t-shirts were nowhere to be found; instead, it was all jerseys, shorts, and any item with an FC Barcelona emblem you could possibly think of. “The guys bought all the Barcelona gear they could get … We go there for soccer, we come back with soccer,” said Dietz.
The Men’s Soccer Team returned from Spain on August 12 and played their first match against SUNY Oswego on September 1, winning 2-0. And if the Doug May Tournament is any indication — the Tigers tied against Ithaca 1-1 and won against Nazareth 1-0 — the season is looking pretty good.