A united nations of soccer
Shalrie Joseph Soccer Club draws from diverse backgrounds for success
WEST ROXBURY — As the soccer world turned its attention toward South Africa and the 2010 World Cup for a celebration of diversity in sport, the pitch at Millennium Park was host to its own potpourri of ethnicities, featuring young players from several countries suiting up for the same squad.
The Shalrie Joseph Soccer Club U-14 team, sponsored by the captain of the New England Revolution, practiced for the final time last Friday night before traveling to Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup. There, the Brookline-based squad will kick off its quest today in the first round of pool play against SC of Waukesha, Wis.
“You have to practice the way you want to play,’’ coach Pedro Herivaux told his players after overseeing an intrasquad scrimmage. “I don’t care if he’s normally on your team. You have to make your guy uncomfortable.’’
That is the Haitian style of soccer, according to Herivaux, a native of the Caribbean nation.
“We get under players’ skin,’’ he said. “In Haiti, they’re always on you. They’re not going to back down from anything. If we have to shut you down, we’ll shut you down. And not quietly. We’re in your ear all the time.’’
Distracting as it may be, the on-the-field chatter on the U-14 Lions could very easily get lost in translation. The team features players from Brookline, Framingham, Newton, Wellesley, Brockton, Cambridge, and Dorchester. Though each player speaks English, the foreign languages spoken are almost as varied as the hometowns.
Stanley Elie came to the states from Haiti two years ago and often speaks Haitian Creole with his coach.
The Pires cousins, Emiky and Agnelo, speak Portuguese Creole on the field.
“Sometimes it’s so the other team won’t understand what’s going on,’’ Herivaux said. “But sometimes it’s because they’re fighting and they don’t want me to know what’s going on.’’
Josh Makaruse’s family hails from Newton via Zimbabwe, and if he was so inclined, he could chatter all he wanted in either Shona or Zulu.
Kanta Osawa is quiet, but if he and the coach’s son, Zachary, decided to have a back-and-forth in Japanese to plot their next move, they could.
“It’s funny. Everyone’s different,’’ Herivaux said. “They all have different personalities but they get along with each other.’’
The Lions play fall and spring schedules and are starting to play their best soccer at the most opportune time.
After finishing the spring schedule at 2-3-2, they entered tournament play and, essentially, turned on a switch. They were runners-up in the Massachusetts State Cup to North Shore United as well as the Massachusetts Presidents Cup.
Because Massachusetts was allowed two teams to advance to the Presidents Cup regional championship this year, the Lions advanced and improved enough over that span to win Region I.
In Tennessee, the team will play three games against other regional champions from Florida, Ohio, and California. The two teams with the best records will advance to play for the Presidents Cup.
“Once we started playing together, we started playing our best football,’’ says Herivaux. “We would lose to these teams earlier in the year, but as soon as we started playing for something bigger, we beat them.’’
The team’s success is thanks in part to the strikers, Lance Mayo and Zachary Herivaux, the coach’s son. Both Mayo, who is of Jamaican-American descent, and Herivaux, of Haitian-Japanese descent, have participated in the United States Olympic Development Program and have YouTube highlight videos online. Herivaux’s clips, which show him weaving around defenders and finishing goals with either foot, have more than 8,000 views to date.
Pedro Herivaux met his wife, Miki, in Japan while he played professionally there for Gamba Osaka. Zachary was born there and is fluent in Japanese.
In August, Zachary will travel back to Japan to try out for Gamba Osaka’s youth team, and has hopes of making the Japanese national team by the next World Cup in 2014.
“I’m a little nervous to see what it’s like,’’ says Zachary. “I’ve never played soccer over there, but I know they play a much different style. I think we’re a little more aggressive here.’’
In the one year the Shalrie Joseph Soccer Club has been in existence, coach Herivaux has implemented his aggressive Haitian style and led his international mélange of strangers to a chance at a national championship.
The easy part was getting them to get along.
Herivaux and Joseph often hosted potluck dinners at their homes where they encouraged players to bring their own food. That way, teammates got a taste of the cultures donning the same Lions uniform.
“They’re all so comfortable with each other,’’ says Herivaux. “They’re a family.’’
Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com.