“Yī, èr, sān!” “Uno, dos, tres!” “Ek do teen!” “Raz, dva, tri!” “One, two, three!”
Listen to the St. Andrew’s boys varsity soccer team warming up before a game, and this is what you’ll hear. Together the team counts out their exercises in every language spoken by the team — 18 in all. It’s just one way the team recognizes and celebrates the 11 countries they represent on the field as they all fight for St. Andrew’s together.
This week the team is competing in the NEPSAC Boys' Class C tournament for the second time since moving up from Class D in 2017. As the tournament’s No. 3 seed, they are top among the class’s eight strongest teams who are vying for the championship. So far, so good. After a 2-1 win over Connecticut's St. Luke’s School, the team will face Massachusetts-based Concord Academy in the semi-finals.
In professional soccer, countries are known for particular styles of play — Mexican soccer, for example, is known for excellent ball control and dribbling prowess; British soccer for fast-paced attacks; Nigerian soccer for a free-flowing style that pulls the opponent out of the rear. Young players are often trained in the prominent soccer style of their respective countries.
When those players come together on one team, some coaches worry that disjointed, ineffective play will be the result, says David Bourk, St. Andrew’s varsity boys head coach. But he’s never bought into that idea. Instead, he credits this year’s strong season in large part to the incredible international diversity on the team. Far from disjointed, the St. Andrew’s team utilizes a powerful blend of multiple styles that enables the team to artfully adjust to whatever their opponents throw their way.
“It’s like a piece of artwork made with stained glass,” he said. “You have all these wonderfully different shades of color and glass. And if they are organized into a pattern, they come together in a way that brings out a kind of beauty that you wouldn’t see if it were monochromatic.”
But it’s not just their soccer skills that make the team powerful. Senior right wing Ean M., who calls Massachusetts home, says the team draws their strength from their united passion for the game.
“The best part about playing on a team with kids from other countries is the love and desire they all have for the game,” he said. “They bring the intensity and level of play up to a whole new level. It is something I have never experienced anywhere else.”
The composition of the boys soccer team mirrors the larger St. Andrew’s student body where 14 countries are represented. It’s a global, multicultural community that has become another home for senior right wing Jehan M., who is from Mumbai, India.
“Moving more than 7,000 miles away from home was a huge change for me, but my first interactions here were with the soccer team,” said Jehan. “They made me feel extremely welcomed and valued, and this feeling was further enhanced by our loving community. My teammates and coaches have taught me a lot of valuable lessons that go beyond soccer. My team is like family to me, and I think we all just share a really strong bond despite our various differences.”
Spectators at this week’s tournament will be greeted by another sign of the team’s international pedigree — a row of flags hung by the sidelines, one for each country represented on the team.
“We hang them right next to the American flag so everybody knows we are all equal,” said Ean. “I feel like the soccer team is a place where you are encouraged to express your heritage, not just know your heritage.”