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Cougar soccer players travel to Brazil

A group of University of Minnesota, Morris soccer players departed for Brazil yesterday on a 13-day trip to the land of a record five World Cup Soccer Championships.

The trip is a bona fide UMM study abroad opportunity billed "Soccer: A Brazilian Experience." Four credits can be earned towards students' academic totals.

Besides the thrill of playing soccer in such a prestigious environment, this study abroad opportunity will also contain a political and economic angle. In a country where children see soccer as perhaps their only opportunity to escape the harsh realities of poverty, soccer becomes much more than a simple game to Brazilian citizens and is transformed into a way of life.

Thus, the academic goal of the trip will explore this question: "Does soccer have a bigger influence on people's lives than subjects related to politics or economics?"

"Soccer is a huge part of their culture and that will be something that we have never seen before here in the U.S., as soccer is kind of an afterthought here," said UMM men's soccer team member Brendan Harper, coming off a very successful freshman season.

A snippet from UMM's official course description states that "This course is an opportunity for current or past soccer players, coaches, or fans to immerse themselves in learning about the world of Brazilian soccer and thus gaining a glimpse of Brazilian society."

Also, the academic portion of the trip includes "various readings about Brazil and soccer in Brazil, Blogging during the experience, conducting interviews with people of Brazil, and completing a final paper using the experience to answer the question posed above."

"Most of the team will be looking forward to having the opportunity to play soccer on foreign soil against professional youth teams," said Harper. "It's the type of thing that most kids never get a chance to do."

Harper said he was looking forward to being in a country where soccer, and not football or basketball, is the number one sport.

The trip is being led by UMM faculty member and men's soccer coach, Christian DeVries, who currently teaches courses in Sports Management at UMM. DeVries is quite qualified to lead such a group, having achieved a USSF "A" license, a NSCAA Advanced National Diploma, and a Brazilian "C" license during his career.

"I am looking forward to taking the team to Brazil this summer, as we are going to get the opportunity to learn soccer from the best in the world," said DeVries. "The playing experience the team will have will only be rivaled by their cultural experience of being in one of the top soccer nations in the world."

DeVries anticipates that each player will return from Brazil with a great appreciation for the sport they love.

Harper said being trained by professional coaches and put through the same drills as all the pro players in Brazil will help improve the team.

"The professional youth teams... will most likely be superior to us and force us to step up our game in order to compete with them.

"After coming off the best season in our program's short history, every team in our conference will be after us, plus the fact that our pre-conference schedule will be much more difficult than previous seasons," said Harper. "The experience we will gain from training and playing against teams in Brazil could bring us a lot closer to reaching our number one team goal: a trip to the NCAA tournament (which UMM soccer is now eligible for)."

Some highlights of the trip include:

• Training at the ABC Futebol Club

• Brazilian beach soccer

• Tour of Natal--the "Sun City of Brazil"

• Buggy Ride to Geipabu Dunes (largest sand dunes in Brazil)

• Exposure to nursing homes, orphanages, and inner-city life

• Private meetings with professional soccer coaches

• Attending practice sessions of professional teams

• Attending a professional soccer game.