By Thomas Edwards
From an outsider’s perspective, the Dowling College Men’s Soccer team may appear to be an ordinary group of ordinary young men in a relatively ordinary college setting. But upon taking a deeper look into the inner workings of this team, one will realize that they are far from ordinary; this special group is definitely extraordinary.
Over the years, the team has worked to become a staple of consistency within NCAA’s Division II men’s soccer. A national championship in 2006 exemplifies the numerous awards and achievements earned by this unique program, but trophies and places in the history books are only a small portion of the everlasting impact left by the members of this team. After all, the team’s members are what make it such a special group.
Though the faces of the DCMS roster change from year to year, every player’s legacy lives on forever. A majority of the chatter during the squad’s down time together consists of experiences from past years and stories of former players. Through these conversations, though the individuals in these stories have long left the college, players feel as if they know and can relate with those who played several years before them.
Dowling College is a multi-cultural establishment, and its men’s soccer team is no different. With soccer (or football) being tagged as the ‘world’s sport,’ it’s not surprising to find people from so many different backgrounds joined together on a team. Dowling soccer has prided itself on the diversity of its players, and this year’s team is no different. Nine different countries are represented by the 28 players, who range in age from 17 to 25. With the cultural differences alone, not to mention differences in personalities or basic on-field tactics and execution, it would seem that the teammates might encounter difficulties trying to get along; but the beautiful part of this team is that the players co-exist as if they had known each other since they were young boys. In some games throughout the season, while other teams have screamed at each other with fire in their eyes, this Dowling team would be seen high-fiving one another or carrying a water bottle to a fellow team member in need. Part of the team’s success is the confidence they have in each other: the idea of knowing that one player will put in all the extra hard work so nobody will be let down, particularly considering the guy next to him is willing to do the same. This team believes in each other and relies on one another, not unlike the way each member of a family does.
On the field, it is strictly business for this team as they aim to win Dowling’s second national championship; but off the field, there is never a dull moment from comical and eye-opening events. The age gap leads to situations where one player may be having a conversation about his experiences in the Israeli Army while right next to him a heated debate is being had about the lyrics of the Andy Milonakis Show theme song (“I got cheese on my head, but don’t call me a cheesehead”). The cultural differences are also apparent. As two players speak Serbian with each other about on-goings back home, two local Long Islanders next to them may be discussing the outcome of the soccer match played between their former high schools.
As the season winds down, the squad finds itself in the familiar surroundings of yet another NCAA tournament. Each evening, the squad practices as the weather gets dark and brisk. Under the lights, they circulate the ball from player to player, each representing not only Dowling but their own family, friends, town, and country. This group, which was at some point literally oceans apart, has become inseparable and capable of moving mountains together.
There exists a beautiful craziness among this special group which plays the ‘beautiful game.’