In approximately one week, members of the Northwestern men’s soccer team will travel to Rio De Janerio, Brazil. The men, ranging from freshmen to seniors, have been planning the trip since early last fall. Sophomore Gabriel Goncalves and freshman Pedro Fonseca, both from Brazil, influenced the decision to make the trip.
“I’m personally most excited to meet Pedro and Gabriel’s family,” said junior Michael Simmelink. “To see where they come from and where they’ve been defined.”
When the team reaches its destination, they will participate in a variety of activities, both service and recreational. Along with seeing sights such as the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain, the team will spend time with Goncalves’ and Fonseca’s families. They will visit the places the two grew up and went to school.
“I’m really excited for them to see my culture,” Goncalves said, “and to show them my neighborhood and for them to see my people.”
Goncalves said he is most excited to show his teammates the diversity of Rio.
“I love my hometown,” Goncalves said. “We have the beach, the mountains, lagoons and the city. Rio has everything.”
After spending time in Rio, the team will have an opportunity to serve in Belo, the third most populous city in Brazil. They will be working for a sport-based ministry and leading soccer camps for young children.
“I want to bring hope to the kids,” Simmelink said.
Goncalves and Fonseca said they hope the people of Brazil will be able to teach their American teammates something, too.
“I hope my teammates see how joyful we, the people of Brazil, are,” Goncalves said.
“Even though they are in poor situations, they are really happy. That’s something I want them to see.”
“People there don’t have as much as people here,” Fonseca said. “People there are happy even though they don’t have as much.”
After helping with the soccer camps, the team will play a game against a Brazilian team.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Simmelink said. “We’ll be playing in a fairly nice stadium, and there will be a few hundred people who will come out and watch.”
The team has participated in a variety of fundraisers to help finance the trip. The players have been busy with Pizza Ranch tip nights and delivering phone books.
“We’re working hard to reach our team goal,” Simmelink said.
This trip will be a chance for students to see the sights of Brazil and serve others, but it will also be an opportunity to grow as a team.
“I hope that this trip will bring the team closer and everyone takes something away from this awesome experience,” said senior Taylor Biggs.
Most students do not get to go on a trip like this during their college experience, and the team is excited for the opportunity.
“This is the first time our soccer team has done something like this,” Simmelink said. “The spiritual level of the team is on a higher level than it has been. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”