College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

This Week’s Free Sudoku
This Week’s Free Sudoku
This Week’s Free Crossword
This Week’s Free Crossword
This Week’s Free Sudoku
This Week’s Free Sudoku
This Week’s Free Crossword
This Week’s Free Crossword

International Players Make Their Mark at COD Men’s Soccer

Two members of the men’s soccer program talk about their journey to overcome cultural barriers and international homesickness to pursue their dreams on and off the field.
COD+soccer+players+huddle+before+the+game.%0A
Rachel Wagner
COD soccer players huddle before the game.

In recent years, the College of DuPage men’s soccer program has become a collegiate destination for international players to continue their academic and athletic careers. This past 2023-2024 season, a handful of the team consisted of a variety of international players from different backgrounds and homelands. The sacrifice of moving away from home to another country to set forth for a better future comes with mental and environmental obstacles.

For many players, the transition is not as smooth as it may appear due to having to maintain student-athlete expectations and adapting to a new country. Many of these players travel across the world with no other option in hopes of transferring to a four-year college. Despite these challenges, COD’s athletic department has assisted in helping international players adapt to a new setting. Most notably, two international players will be transferring to four-year institutions out of this year’s men’s soccer team this upcoming fall.

Freshman Chile native Julio Blanco is a defender for the Chaps and has been living in the United States since August 2023. The Chaps defender appeared in 11 games with a goal contribution. Blanco arrived in the United States without knowing any English, which caused an impactful language and cultural barrier in his arrival to the States.

Freshman back Julio Blanco kicks the ball. (Rachel Wagner)

With the knowledge of being more than a 13-hour flight away from home, Blanco bet on himself to utilize the pressures of being an international player to fuel his motivation to overcome adversity. Blanco will be transferring to Sterling College in Kansas this upcoming fall to continue his academic and athletic career.

“Having to be alone and make your life 100% independent was a huge challenge,” said Blanco. “I thank my teammates who helped me adapt to the [new] language. I had [Edith Jaco as a] Spanish teacher last year, who helped me understand how everything works in the U.S. You have to prove that the coaches brought you there for a reason and sometimes the pressure can consume you. In Chile, migrating to the United States with an athletic scholarship is seen very well. Very few people can do it and that is why I did not miss the opportunity.”

Bourne End native Archie Murphy comes from a small village outside of London. The Chaps forward finished the 2023-2024 season with 11 goals total, three game-winning goals and two assists. Murphy arrived in the United States in August 2023 and highlighted that the biggest obstacle he has had to overcome since the move has been becoming distant from his family. Murphy will be transferring to Roberts Wesleyan University in New York to play Division Two soccer and continue his academic career.

Freshman forward Archie Murphy sprints towards the corner flag to celebrate his freekick goal with teammates. (Rachel Wagner)

“[My family] is so important to me, so being so far away from them is a struggle,” said Murphy. “This goes from making my food to seeing my family on the sidelines of all my games. They have come out to visit, which has been nice, and they will always be my motivation whether I’m back home or on the other side of the world. As an international, you have a bit of added pressure to come in and perform. People are always interested back home, which is really cool.”

On the recruiting side, finding coachable and adapting international players that fit into a developed system as a head coach has its challenges. Head men’s soccer coach Zac Ludwig believes that finding well-balanced international players can be a struggle but is aware of the benefits and new experiences for the team players in including them in a squad both on and off the field.

“The hardest thing is finding guys that are a good fit for us,” said Ludwig. “We do not fly overseas to see them play, so we build a relationship with them to see if they will fit in the COD culture. We understand how intimidating or difficult [the move] can be flying across the world to play, so we make sure that we are available and supportive to them along the way. Whether it’s getting situated with housing, we try to be hands-on and connect them with local players right away before they show up. The international guys tend to bring a different mentality since they have a lot invested in being here and risked a lot.”

Head men’s soccer coach Zac Ludwig talks to the team during halftime. (Rachel Wagner)

Both Murphy and Blanco held high praise for the College of DuPage program for their support and understanding during their transition from their homeland to Glen Ellyn, Il. Despite experiencing the feeling of being alone at times, the two remind themselves of the support they have both on and off the field.

“COD has made the transition seamless,” said Murphy. “The staff, coaches, teachers and players have been a massive help. As a player, they showed belief in me by giving me the chance to come out here and show what I have to offer.”

“At first, I thought I didn’t have much support until I realized my professors were willing to help me,” said Blanco. “The transition with COD based on the sport has been different since I have other visions of soccer, but the concern of the coaches in everything is quite high and that makes you feel good.” 

With both players leaving for four-year institutions this upcoming fall, Murphy and Blanco look forward to seeing more international student-athletes arrive at COD to accomplish their childhood dream of playing collegiate soccer as they did.

“It’s never easy to leave your family aside and make your life independent to achieve your dreams, but remember that you are where you are for a reason,” said Blanco. Just don’t give up.”

Freshman goalkeeper Sam Negus out of Reading, England finished this past season with 75 saves with a 0.71 save percentage. New Zealand native James Pita suffered a season-ending injury last season and did not make a field appearance. The squad also included Aashish Raj from Bedford, England, who also did not make a field appearance last season.

For more information about the Men’s Soccer team, go to the COD Athletics website.

More to Discover