Manhattan College Men’s Soccer: International Love for the Game

Manhattan College men’s soccer team, huddling around each other during the 2022 MAAC quarterfinals against Fairfield. GO JASPERS/COURTESY

By Isaiah Rosario, Assistant Sports Editor

Soccer, the biggest sport across the world, brings together those from all corners of the globe. Here at Manhattan College, 15 different players on the men’s soccer team’s roster are international student-athletes that came to Manhattan with one goal on their mind: to win a MAAC Championship for their school.

Jordan Scott, head coach of men’s soccer, spoke about how his roster represents the idea of New York City. 

“There’s not a player on my team that would say that they’re just American,” Scott said. “ If you sit in my roster, you sit in my change room and you ask the guys where they are from even though they were born in America, their families are from different backgrounds so I would say that that diversity symbolizes New York City … When I think about building a team, it symbolizes New York City, it gives opportunity to people from all over the world. That’s what I wanted to do with this program.”  

From England to New Zealand and France, there are a multitude of different playing styles of the sport in the athlete’s home countries compared to the United States. Henry Hamilton and James Cotter spoke about how the playing style is different in New Zealand and England respectively compared to the United States.

“ [It is] much more fast-paced at home,” Hamilton said. “It’s slightly more tactical, things have taken a bit slower, and you try and work out different ways to break down defenses. Whereas here, I feel like it’s more just quantity over quality. We try to just break down as many times as possible. Keep going, and keep knocking down barriers, whereas at home it’s more patient to take your time a bit more.”

Cotter found the opposite to be true. 

“I think over here, it’s very, it’s much more fast-paced compared to back home,” Cotter said. “It’s not as technical. It’s all about getting the result. We’re not at that stage in our career where it’s all about growth, it’s about results. We don’t really think about ourselves and how we play and how we do as much, it’s all about the three points. at the end of the day.”

When you join a team with different backgrounds and styles of play, you become vulnerable to things you could never have predicted. Playing with athletes from all around the world can help you develop as a person both on and off the field. 

“Everything has changed,” senior Anthony Denis said. “Every day, you will learn something about someone. We have people from South America, African players … we have every part of the world so just you have to learn. I know when we never played the same scale as I used to.” 

Denis said that it is important for international players to adapt to whatever coach they are playing with. He said that this can be difficult, as he and other players may have learned about soccer differently in their home countries, but it is crucial to make sure a team adapts together and understands each other’s styles.

Coming to the United States from another nation is undoubtedly a cultural change. The move from one culture to another brings with it experiences you did not anticipate. Midfielder James Cotter spoke with The Quadrangle about his experience playing on such a diverse lineup.  

“It’s fun,” Cotter said. “You’re always learning about different backgrounds, you never feel like you know somebody because they’re always different. Back home, I played a lot of football with people that I grew up with since I was seven, eight years old. Then you come here, you meet a whole new team. When I first came, I didn’t know anybody I spoke to like one or two over the phone and that was it. I learned a lot about different cultures. I feel like the best thing is you’re always learning about different people in different cultures.”

Coming from different cultures can make it difficult to adjust to playing with people you’ve never met before. The cultural diversity of the men’s roster may aid in bringing everyone together.

“It’s really important things on the spot of our team,” Denis said. “We are able to just get on the field and we know each other now, we can joke around, we just respect each other and it’s good sometimes to just learn something.” 

Hamilton told The Quadrangle it has been part of the process to find compromise with other players. 

“I think something our team’s really good at is finding a middle ground because obviously, everyone’s from different backgrounds we deal with situations differently, on and off the field,” Hamilton said. “We’re very good at finding solutions. So although we get into troubles on the field or arguments off the field, just the way that people deal with things. We’re always able to come to agreements and that sort of thing. Just having a middle ground and finding respect for each other.”

With an international roster comes language barriers and differences in culture. Scott discussed how he uses culture on the field to foster unity and communication. 

“This year we made a huge step,” Scott said. “COVID was really difficult for us because we couldn’t interact with each other, and when we could, it was minimalized. This spring, in particular, we’ve taken the time to get to know each other.”

The men’s soccer team implemented a program called the Championship Meetings, which is aimed at building relationships between players according to Scott. 

 “Every other Wednesday, give or take, we would sit down and discuss core values within our group and how to define it between each student-athlete,” Scott said. “We teach them communication skills. We talk about what respect means in different cultures. We spoke about religion last week, how to maintain eye contact, how to ask questions, and how to de-escalate the conflict. During that whole process, what I think we found was that we’re very different, and sometimes what we believe to be the definition or the way to behave or act may be completely opposite from our teammate, and it may affect him negatively. By having those open lines of communication … it can make a tremendous difference.”

Players have found the championship meetings to be very successful as it allows the players to open up to more conversation, Scott told The Quadrangle. 

“In every meeting, we’re having now at the moment as players are planning out the summer in the fall, and they’re leaving,” Scott said. “Every player has said that [championship meetings] really helped them because they got to talk to people on a different level that they would never ever spoken to,” Scott said. “I think that’s going to be important for our program moving forward is that we continue to help each other and learn and educate each other on what everyone feels and what they see and what their cultures are and we if we do that will only become stronger and maybe that one word or action could impact someone’s day, maybe their happiness, maybe their mindset, which will hopefully lead to better performance on the field.”