A German, a New Zealander and a Brit walk onto the field. What do they all have in common? They all play for the Loyola men’s soccer team.
Germany, New Zealand and England are just three of the five countries represented on the men’s soccer team. International recruiting is an integral part of this year’s team and for some of the players, the team’s international ties have led them to wear maroon and gold.
This year’s team has six international players include New Zealander goalkeeper Marcel Kampman and defender Liam Moore, German defender Marius Kullmann, Portuguese midfielder Thomas Dias, Swedish midfielder Oskar Gustafsson and English midfielder Giann Magno.
Ramblers head coach Neil Jones, a New Zealand native, has placed an emphasis on international recruiting in his seven seasons at Loyola, having an average of six international players on the roster since 2016.
“International players bring diversity, different backgrounds, different childhoods, different styles of plays,” Jones said. “At Loyola, we want diverse guys and girls who can learn from each other and have a great college experience socially, academically, athletically and they can all learn from one another and this can help build a strong team.”
The international recruiting process involves players sending videos of in-game action, training and sending grades and test scores to the coaches, rather than coaches traveling across the country to watch domestic players play. Jones said he makes sure he brings in a player who will fit into the team.
“We reach out to our references to gain information on their soccer ability, we find out more about their character, work ethic, attitude and overall nature as human beings,” Jones said. “Because that’s a very important part of Loyola’s men’s soccer team, having good people within the organization.”
Jones’ international background played a major role in bringing Kampman to Loyola. They’re both from New Zealand, and they had mutual connections who spoke highly of Jones.
The link between Jones and Kampman isn’t the only major international relationship that helped shape this team. Kullmann, who’s from Fulda, Germany, said the road to Loyola began at his youth academy in Frankfurt, Germany alongside former Loyola midfielder Fabian Lifka.
“[Lifka] told me lots of good things about Loyola, the team and the style of play, which was a huge part for me,” Kullmann, 22, said. “I really liked how he described Loyola, so I decided to go here because I knew I had someone here already who feels the same way about the way to play soccer.”
Kullmann said he “hesitated at the beginning” about coming to Loyola due to the transition from Germany to the U.S., but he soon found his footing and said he was “proud of his decision.” For Kampman, 21, the options were as simple as giving up soccer or coming to the United States to play collegiately and have a shot at a degree.
“Looking back at it, I’m proud of myself that I made the decision to come here.”
— Marius Kullmann, senior defender
“In New Zealand, where I’m from, there is only one professional club and if you don’t make it there then the pathway to play soccer is very narrow,” Kampman said. “Loyola is a good academic school in a big city with a great soccer program and you just have to chase it.”
Jones said he views players pursuing professional contracts straight out of high school as “chasing a pot of gold,” and that they should continue getting their education at Division I schools because it won’t eliminate the player’s opportunities of going professional.
Jones praised each of these international players for choosing to continue to play soccer in the U.S. and believes each player brings “dimension and diversity” to the current roster. Kullmann echoed Jones’ thoughts, adding everyone needs to do their jobs for the team to succeed.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter where you’re from,” Kullmann said. “It’s all about rising up to the occasion on the field, doing what you’re supposed to do: playing up to your best and helping your team by doing your role.”
Kullmann and Kampman attribute Chicago as a huge part of their decision to play for the Ramblers. Kullmann said he came to Loyola for the city and Kampman said he credited the city’s exposure in order to “network and find job opportunities.”
Kampman said he finds the difference between the “relaxed and chilled” New Zealand and “frantic and fast-paced lifestyle” of Chicago as an exciting opportunity and one he enjoys. As for Kullmann, he said although he can only go home for winter break — depending on airline prices — he doesn’t regret taking the chance to play soccer more than 4,000 miles away.
“Looking back at it, I’m proud of myself that I made the decision to come here,” Kullmann said. “If anyone has that opportunity on the table, don’t hesitate and take the chance and embrace every minute of it.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to take the field again Oct. 23 at Bradley University. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.