Taking in the scene at the Santa Clara Youth Park on Monday night, one couldn’t help but notice the melting pot of cultures enjoying the world’s beautiful game. It wasn’t just that Santa Clara Sporting was hosting two high schools from Japan in Asahigaoka High School and Meiwa High School, but heard on the sidelines was a boy from one of Sportings’ younger clubs asking, “what’s the score? Tres a cero?”
The diversity in the Bay Area combined with the vast amount of youth soccer played in Santa Clara over the past few decades has created an environment where everyone is welcome. For those who aren’t familiar with Spanish, the boy was asking if the score was three to zero. At that time, it the score was indeed 3-0 and the Sporting would go on to win 4-0. Afterwards, Santa Clara Sporting hosted their Japanese opponents back at their clubhouse for a meet-and-greet dinner.
“Every once in a while, for the past 15 years, give or take, we’ve been contacted by different programs to host these international friendlies,” remarked Sporting Head Coach John Azevedo. “It was a really fun game, we enjoyed having Japan here. It’s kind of lowkey, but at the same time we now get to go back to the clubhouse, we eat and get to talk, get to know each other and make an evening out of it.”
Last season the same Sporting club hosted Japan, but half of the Santa Clara squad was still in Texas finishing up a tournament. This time around the 2001 Sporting squad all got to partake in the international friendly.
“Last year we were in Texas for Nationals, but this year we were fortunate enough to get to play them this time around,” noted Sporting Goalkeeper Willem Kelson. “It’s become kind of a tradition over the years. I’ve seen pictures of my goalkeeper coach holding the Japanese flag so it’s definitely become a nice tradition here at Sporting to play these teams. I love how the City embraces the diversity and different cultures, I mean we’re going together to go get tacos after this.”
“This was a really good experience for all of us, there was some talent and skill level that I have never seen before,” remarked Sporting center back Fernando Macieo. “I’m honored to be able to play them in a game like this. It’s awesome that our area has such great diversity and a bunch of different cultures. People from all over want to come here and play.”
“The diversity of this area is amazing,” echoed coach Azevedo. “On this team we have Koreans, Vietnamese, we have Mexicans, we have such a mix, everybody plays. There are never any problems either, they all love each other and for me it’s really cool because that’s how it’s supposed to be with our great game.”