Iona gives international players chance to explore life outside of soccer

Tevan Costoso Staff Writer

In different countries around the world, soccer players around the age of 16 to 18 are facing a tough decision in their young lives: either pursue an academic career or take the risky and unpredictable journey of professional soccer.

The Iona College men’s soccer team features players from Chile, Peru, Spain, England, Nigeria and other countries. Iona has given each player on the roster the chance to play professionally, while preparing for life outside the pitch.

“In many countries, at the age of 16, 17 and 18 years old you have to choose between continuing your academic career or take the risk to pursue a professional athletic career,” Claude Diesse, a graduate student on the team, said. “This system is a great mode for people willing to keep their plan B, which can easily become a plan A. In Canada, especially in Montreal, they are starting to finance student-athletes programs more and more.”

Diesse, a native of Montreal, Quebec, has gained plenty of U.S. soccer experience, playing for Southern New Hampshire University and now Iona. Diesse thinks the style of play is similar in the U.S. and Canada, but the former has the upper hand in terms of trainers and facilities.

“Players in the U.S are more fit and are better trained athletically since players have more resources in terms of trainers, athletic coaches, etc. on their team,” Diesse said. “In the big picture, both countries’ style of soccer are pretty much similar.”

Freshman midfielder Mauro Bravo, who hails from Madrid, picked Iona because the school provides the resources that allows him to strengthen his game, while improving in the classroom.

“One of the main reasons I chose Iona [was] because I think it was the college that was going to prepare me better [for] my post collegiate career not only as a student but also as an athlete,” Bravo said.

Bravo played for various leagues in Spain before coming to Iona with a great interest in playing Major League Soccer. Just like Diesse, Bravo noticed there is a lot more strength and physicality in U.S. soccer.

“Here in the United States, it is more all about being big and physical,” Bravo said. “In Spain, we move the ball from one side to the other, being patient until we score.”

Diesse has nothing but praise about his time playing U.S. soccer. He truly believes that the college route has given him the chance to play at the next level.

“Four years as a student-athlete in the U.S is like living a dream,” Diesse said. “You are treated and taken care of like a professional athlete, which is fantastic. Everything you need to get better in your sport is there for you. I honestly believe it is the best path for me to get my first professional contract in the future, hopefully in MLS [Major League Soccer] or USL [United Soccer League].”