It might be the off season for the Castleton men’s soccer team, but team members are pumped up for their upcoming journey to the capitol of England. The trip is an opportunity for Castleton players to witness an entirely different soccer culture and demonstrate their own ability, said Coach John Werner.
“The passion for the game of football in England is like no other in the world,” Werner said, referring to soccer as football, as is done in Europe.
The Spartans will make their departure for London on Friday, March 28 and return on April 6. The players will get plenty of chances to witness all the sights of London during the trip, but this is not just a big vacation for them — it’s a once in a lifetime soccer experience.
During the visit, Castleton will compete in three matches with college level opponents and attend a training session the pros.
“I want to meet some of the top professional coaches because this is the heart of soccer,” senior midfielder Bennett Laderoute said. “The chance to experience a different culture with my buddies is going to be a life-long memory.”
On April 5, Castleton will witness the intense soccer competition live when they attend the match pitting Fulham versus Sunderland. The Spartans will meet five current Americans on the historic Fulham Football Club roster, a team that was founded in 1879.
The American members who compete for Fulham include Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Brian McBride.
“I’m looking forward to meeting Clint Dempsey. “I watched him last year in the World Cup and I love the way he plays,” team captain T.J. Mazza said. “I have never been overseas before so I’m looking forward to playing with kids over there because it’s the highest stage for soccer.”
Werner has made the journey eight times previously with youth teams from Arlington, but this is the first time traveling to England for the Castleton squad. The team has received some financial support from alumni through a t-shirt sale, but the trip is largely funded out of team members’ pockets and significant family contributions.
“It’s hard to raise substantial funds on this campus because all the teams need to raise money,” Werner said.
Werner said he loves to keep members of Castleton soccer history involved in the program and will have three Castleton alumni along on the trip. Current assistant coach Paul Storey will be with the team and former teammate Mark Fleming will meet with the team. Castleton alumni Owen Lewis is also expected to make an appearance with the Spartans in London.
Castleton is going into next season as the defending NAC champions and Werner knows that there will be a target on their back when the regular season arrives. The Spartans have everyone coming back in their title defense and this trip should add to their established strong team unity, he said.
“We have a great group of guys. “This experience can improve us individually and collectively,” Werner said. “This opportunity is just another thing that makes playing soccer at Castleton that much more special.