Opportunity of academic, athletic progression big motivator for Bravo

Matthew Chaves, Sports Editor

The combination of athletics and academics offered for athletes at Iona College works perfectly for someone who wants to work on both at the same time, according to sophomore Mauro Bravo.

In Spain, where Bravo is from, athletics and academics are entirely separate. Students go to school in one place and play sports in another. Here in the states, it’s a part of the culture to play sports at the same place you go to school. That was the perfect situation for Bravo.

“I thought it’d be a really good chance to come here and study at the same time I play the sport I love,” Bravo said.

Fellow peers coming to the matches is also a big difference from playing in a club back in Spain, Bravo said. The support for your career among peers is much more evident than it is in Spain.

With a move through continents comes the changes between the two. The style of play here in the states differs from the European style of play immensely.

The Gaels have a European style of play, so there is not as much of a culture shock for international players like Bravo. When it comes to their opponents, however, it’s much different. Direct play focusing on the size and strength of players dominates the pitch as opposed to the ground-based passing play from Europe.

“It is a challenge to come from [Spain] and getting used to the way referees treat the players, the way other teams play [and] the way you play and represent the college,” Bravo said. “That just hit me last year and I had to get used to it.”

Bravo seems to have accomplished that. Last season, the former Atletico de Madrid midfielder had four goals and three assists in 17 games played. This season, he’s nearly doubled his goal tally at seven and has bested his last season with four assists so far.

The Iona College midfielder has a rich history in soccer. His father used to play the sport and is now an agent. Living close to Atletico de Madrid’s training facility in addition to the connections of Bravo’s father made the choice of playing for the 10-time La Liga champions an easy one.

Bravo brings the winning mentality of the Spanish giants here to the Gaels, prioritizing winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship and going as far as possible in the NCAA tournament.

“I believe we have the team and family to make it far,” Bravo said. “If I get individual goals, that’s just an extra goal that you get that makes you happy. First of all is the team goals and the individual goals always help.”