Michael Torres and the Hartford Soccer Club: Soccer is their life.

Hartford Soccer Club. Parados: Michael Torres (Coach), Joseph Boakye, Robert Sam, Kenan Mujic. Patrick Agyemang, Sergio Saldívar, Jason Addi, Dillon Pehr y Anthony Delacruz. Abajo: Dane Stephens, Collin, Brandon, Mikey Torres, Alasan Barrie, Alex Rostemburg y Gabe Navarro.

Walking at night near my house, I went through the soccer stadium in New Britain, Connecticut and saw a lively match played, one of the teams dressed in the colors of the national team of Peru. I approached the team coach and he told me that he was Peruvian and there were players of Peruvian descendant in the team, there were also players descendants of parents from Europe, Latin America and from other countries.

The young players belonged to the Premier category of 18 years (U-18) of the Hartford Soccer Club (Central Connecticut Soccer Alliance) that played against another state team. The way the players played with precise passes, domination of the ball and a perfect tactical game surprised me and more to the opposing team who suffered a great defeat. The coach, Michael Torres, said that his team played in the Connecticut Juvenile Soccer Association. The League season was over and what I saw that Thursday night was a four-day blitz tournament that lasted until Sunday. The heterogeneous group of players came from different cities, cultures and social strata, but what I saw on the field and at halftime was an exceptional camaraderie.

Coach Michael told me: "This is possible because most of these eighteen-year-olds have been playing together for ten or more years, they are a family, a family based on soccer, to which they give their best."

Although I did not meet the players until these moment, all the boys greeted me with courtesy after the game. Before saying goodbye and inviting me to come watch the next day, Michael told me: "As you can see, these guys are not only good athletes but also good citizens, a healthy mind in a healthy body". I was fascinated by the atmosphere and I attended every game that weekend. On the last day, demonstrating an excellent physical state, the boys played two games, each lasting 90 mins. It was amazing to watch them win the championship title.

I learned that coach Michael and other coaches run several teams between the ages of three years to eighteen years. There are three divisions: Recreational, Travel and Premier with a total of more than 400 players this year. For two decades these coaches have taught thousands of players.

It is amazing to see young players from different cultures from Hartford and the central part of Connecticut. They play with such special talent and give an exquisite performance of a soccer match.

Many of the alumni boys who were students of the club, have come back to contribute to the club, even some sports professionals such as trainers and coaches voluntarily help as much as they can. In the USA standards to qualify for the national finals you must accumulate points in regional tournaments, which are expensive for the income of many players. However, coaches, parents and many collaborators find a way donate their time and money to have the necessary points to advance to the finals. they have won the regionals three times but have not been able to go to the national final due to economic limitations. Unfortunately, the national’s finals are more expensive even giving an approximate of $ 11,000 only in lodging, air and land transportation for 22 players, that’s not including food costs.

"I’ll tell you," said Michael, "that most of the boys are calm, but some of them are a little bit irritated, but once they step foot into the club and are around that atmosphere, it changes. Once we had a somewhat rebellious boy and once we were on a very far tour and with a very limited budget, we were approached by a poor person and this apparently insensitive kid went to Mac Donald and bought him a meal with his own money. This is what motivates us to keep going and not give up on these kids. It’s not only about the sport that gives the team and I many satisfactions, but also to give these kids to keep a good head on their shoulders, to keep them out of trouble in a society where the family is endangered.

During those four days that I was with the team, I talked not only with the coaches, all are volunteers, but to the parents of the team players. Muzaher Mujic, Kenan's father (18) says: "My son has been playing with coach Mike for twelve years and I think he is ready to play at a higher level of professionalism. I trust my son with Mike. They travel far for soccer games and I can’t think of another person with whom my son can be more protected with. " Another father Ernest Addi , son Jason (18) has been playing with the team for eight years: "I think the main thing is that the coach tries to convey to the boys is discipline and morality is the same on the field and the same in their everyday lives. He teaches sportsmanship, the correct way to behave in victory as well as in defeats. This molds the boys especially those who come from the heart of the city, sometimes from depress social and economic areas this helps them grow, thanks to the discipline and respect they are learning, they can prosper anywhere. "

The most moving testimony was that of coach Michael's own father, Mr. Jorge Torres, who told us: "My son is a serious, strong and professional coach. He guides his players, congratulates them on their successes and shows their strengths and weaknesses and how to improve them. Of his is five sons, Juan, Mikey, Dane and Jordan play in the Club, Paul the oldest played too before. The most grateful one is Dane who at age 12 played on the team and was left alone in Connecticut when his mother was deported to Jamaica. Mike, despite his limitations, adopted Dane legally and raised him. Today he is 18 years old and is very grateful to Mike and is one of the best players of them team, scoring goals and fights for the ball as if it were his last game.”

In winter, unlike boys from other cities with higher economic chances who can play indoor soccer fields, the boys of the Hartford Soccer Club cannot practice regularly, due to the cost to rent these winter fields.

The United States did not classify to the Soccer World Cup in Russia this year. There are many young players born in USA whose parents are from foreign countries. They play in these leagues throughout the nation and they could make a difference for the national team. But these guys are not under the radar of the scouts, as are players from other sports such as baseball and football where the difference in economic resources and advertising are abysmal. The talent hunters need our help, we must promote these boys to the best of our ability. If you are a private individual or belong to a company and you wish to sponsor this team, you can contact Coach Michael Torres at (860) 656-4102 or his e-mail: pjmjsoccer@yahoo.com. You can also visit the Club's official website: Hartford Soccer Club-Activity City.

One more question Michael, why do your players use the Peruvian jersey? "I am Peruvian and my contacts not only got this one, but also the Peruvian clubs like the Alianza Lima, Universitario, and Sport Boys, which are used by the minor divisions. We also watched the matches of the Peruvian team and we even went to New Jersey to watch the game between Peru and Iceland. The boys admire the Peruvian national team a lot and try to imitate them. "

* Writer note: Last week a private party and some businesses read the article that was written in Spanish and donated some soccer shoes for the U-18 players. Some players don’t have the resources to replace them. The boys wanted to say thanks to the donors.
Pablo D. Perleche
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