Language diversity in men’s soccer

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The role of Spanish and its enriching diversity is present and reflected in the University of Dallas men’s soccer team.

National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the influence of Spanish-rooted history, cultures, values, food and traditions in the United States. Typically this festive month celebrates both Hispanics, people from a Spanish-speaking country, and Latinos, people from a Latin American country. Both identities are often used interchangeably despite their different meanings, but what they do share in common is  their undeniable impact and influence on America.

There are a few soccer players on UD’s men’s soccer team who have an international passport from a Spanish-speaking country, including Spain, Mexico and Guatemala. Not all Spanish isthe same though since there is a difference in dialect, slang and style. Additionally, there is also a soccer player from Brazil. Although Portuguese and Spanish are different languages, they can be roughly understood through similar vocabulary.

Alex Melgoza, a sophomore computer science major and #22, is originally from Monterrey, Mexico. He moved to the United States when he was six years old after his father got offered a job. He shared his experience in communicating with some of his teammates in respect to their Spanish dialect and their other languages.

“It’s very fun interacting with them because sometimes they’ll say something and I’ll have no clue what they mean so I’ll have to ask them,” Melgoza said. “I have a Spaniard teammate and a Brazilian teammate, who I both speak Spanish with, but sometimes it is hard to understand them because of the difference in accents and slang between my Spanish and theirs. I’ve learned a lot of Portuguese and Spaniard Spanish so far this year.”

Melgoza also expressed that these same teammates and him would continue to communicate with each other in Spanish throughout the game—with the exception of communicating in English when speaking with the whole team. Spectators who listen carefully from the bleachers or from the statistics table can hear them encouraging each other, telling each other who’s open or not and even giving warnings from the opponents’ plays, all in Spanish.

The inclusion of some international student athletes benefits the team through individuals and as a whole. As an individual, Melgoza shared that he would learn and use new slang or ball handling techniques after he visits Mexico. 

Ben Utz, a junior business major and #9, praised the opportunity of seeing, playing and working with each teammate’s playing style and the use of their fluent Spanish communication on the field.

“We have probably about eight or nine people who speak fluent Spanish so it’s nice that everyone can communicate in that way,” Utz commented. “On the field as well, during pre-season, we kinda learned about each other’s position, how they play, whether they press or not, go forward a lot.”

Utz emphasized that the interactions with people with diverse backgrounds is a teaching opportunity for oneself and for the team. This is the best attitude to have within a team-based culture without fully neglecting the demand for individual performance.

Utz shared: “I think interacting with people with different backgrounds definitely teaches you a lot about yourself in how you play and how you can best help your teammates succeed on the field. It’s been a really great experience.”

The use of Spanish among the teammates and the diversity of the team overall encourage growth for the players. Melgoza is one of the couple of Hispanic and Latino soccer players who bonded over learning each others’ dialects and languages and Utz is one out of the many soccer players who appreciates the exposure to new cultures and playing styles. The diversity fosters friendship and encourages the players to learn how to come together and play as one Crusader team.

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