Hailing from Northern Ireland, Sweden, Germany and everywhere in between, one defining feature of men’s soccer is its international players.
International Players Bring Diverse Backgrounds to Men’s Soccer Squad
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Sweden, Germany and everywhere in between, one defining feature of Loyola’s 2023 men’s soccer team is the nine players from foreign countries who help make up the squad.
The international players have made an impact this season, having combined for 11 goals and eight assists in eight games. Leading the way has been fourth-year forward Oscar Dueso, from Lleida, Spain, and graduate midfielder Markus Maurer, who is native to Friedrichshafen, Germany, who each have scored four goals so far.
Head coach Steve Bode said while they start by looking for talent locally in Chicago and the Midwest before eventually looking outside of the U.S. when recruiting for the team.
“I think that having diversity on the team, whether it be geographic, racial, ethnic, all of that, it’s something that we embrace at Loyola,” he said. “Something we embrace on our team and we think that it enriches the culture of the team.”
During games, fans may catch players talking to each other in German or Spanish while sitting in the stands. Third-year defender Benni Hofmann, who is originally from Gröbenzell, Germany, said it can be easier for them to speak in their native languages.
“It’s hard to talk to a person from the same other country in English because it’s just like we’ve both know German better than English, for example,” Hofmann said. “So it’s like just kind of easier and less uncomfortable to talk to them, and also it just like comes out quicker like it’s just a mindset that you have.”
Hofmann also said sometimes they can gain an advantage over other teams by communicating in foreign languages.
“If I want to tell my teammates to go to the left side and the opponent doesn’t understand it, it’s just like an advantage,” Hofmann said.
Maurer and Hofmann both said there are some differences between certain soccer terms in Germany and the United States which they needed to adapt to when they first arrived. For example, in Germany they call penalty shots 11 meters or “Elfmeterschießen.”
When it comes to other members of the team, Hofmann said they have taught them some German words which don’t relate to their shared sport.
“We teach them some words like more for fun, like outside of soccer,” Hoffman said with a grin. “Maybe we shouldn’t mention what we teach them, right?”
Maurer said there are differences in how soccer is played in the U.S. compared to Europe, primarily how the American game is much more physical and athletic.
“I feel like in Germany it’s more technical, it’s more tactical,” he said. “But overall, I think you get used to it really quick and for me personally, it is. I think it’s a really good step, because I’m not quite as physical. So playing against more physical players makes myself a little more physical, which I can use in other countries then as well.”
Hofmann agreed and added the NCAA rules, which allow for a greater number of subs, was also a difference he had to get used to.
“In my previous clubs, we like have more technical work and more technical soccer in general,” he said. “Here it’s more about running and fighting. I would say in Germany like 90 minutes is a lot easier to play than here 90 minutes.”
Second-year midfielder Ben Bischof who hails from Eltville, Germany also credited the substitute rules as a reason for the play style of American soccer being different.
“Here [the ball] goes back and forth a bit more, so I would say it’s maybe a bit more intense from the athletic standpoint, because you can switch out like this,” he said. “Your strikers can run for like 20 minutes and then they come off for 10 can come on and for 20 minutes again.”
The players also noted some cultural differences between Europe and America. Maurer said he was shocked by how much Americans run their air conditioners, particularly in Florida where he played for four seasons at Florida Gulf Coast University before transferring to Loyola.
“They run their ACs like 24/7 and also really, really cold, like not even like normal temperature but really, really cold,” he said. “Especially in Florida they like to cool it down to the 60s, and it’s so hot outside so if you go from hot to inside you are getting sick because the temperature difference is so high and it’s crazy to me.”
Maurer also said there are notable differences in the food people in America eat, noting there are more fast food choices here than in Germany.
“For example, they eat pizza with ranch or something like that,” he said. “You wouldn’t see that in Germany — but I like it now.”
Hofmann, Bischof and Maurer also agreed there are differences between universities in America versus in Germany, from dorms to the process of looking for tutoring or support groups.
“In terms of American colleges, this is not a very big college for America, right, because it only has like 12,000 students,” Hofmann said. “But for Germany, this would be a very, very huge university.”
Bischof added that in Germany it’s not common to live on campus because most people drive home after classes.
Each of the players agreed they feel at home at Loyola and feel a connection with the team this year. Hofmann expressed that the new coach worked really hard to connect the players and make them feel welcome.
“I felt super welcome,” Bischof said. “I think American culture and all this, like, very outgoing and interested in people from all different backgrounds. So I never had any problem to adapt to anything.”
Bode said the fact the foreign players come from different backgrounds adds a lot to the team, although he and the coaching staff don’t do anything different for them when it comes to team bonding exercises.
“No matter where they’re from, you’re here for a common purpose, you know,” Bode said. “You’re a Loyola soccer player once you get here, and that’s the common bond.”
This story was written by Griffin Krueger and Cristina Del Llano Fernandez
Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix