Azusa Pacific men’s soccer success is motivated by togetherness, faith and diversity
The significance of athletics is immense; it serves as a common language between teammates and coaches and it brings people together. The perfect example of this is the Azusa Pacific men’s soccer program. Head coach Dave Blomquist and assistant coach Andriy Budnyy have created a culture that is unlike many others.
Soccer is widely considered the most popular sport in the world. This sport serves as the common language for the APU team, whose members come from a variety of diverse countries. The Cougars have players who hail from Brazil, Spain, Ghana and Germany; and many other players have backgrounds from countries such as England, Uganda and Mexico. The phrase, “soccer is the world’s game,” has never been more true than with Azusa Pacific’s team.
“Soccer is just one language, and we all speak it,” said James Ndubueze, junior forward. “That’s the beauty of it and the reason why its the best sport in the world.”
Not only does soccer serve as a language for the players, but it allows fans and other students to connect as well.
“It’s great seeing and having talent from around the world,” said senior midfielder, Arturo Astorga. “Soccer is a sport that brings everyone, fans, coaches, even players together just by having the same love for the sport.”
The diverse backgrounds and people allow the team to connect to one another as people and as teammates. The relationships and bonds the players have been able to make on the field, have allowed the brotherhood to continue after the team steps off the pitch. Simply put, the game means much more to this team because of the relationships they’ve built with each other.
“Our relationships off the field, I think, is the reason why we play so well with each other,” said Astorga. “Everyone sees each other as a brother and that means being there for each other no matter what.”
As mentioned, this team comes from many diverse countries across the world with various perspectives and backgrounds. However, these backgrounds are also rooted in faith.
“Without God, we wouldn’t be number one in the nation right now,” said Gregoire Diep, sophomore midfielder. “Our goal is to show our gifts and talents to give glory to him.”
Being able to share faith in God has made their bond and purpose as a team that much stronger. This serves as an inspiration to us all, as their humility shines through providing opportunities to honor God as a team on and off the field.
This atmosphere of brotherhood has also paid off when it comes to winning. This season, they carry a perfect record of 13-0 (as of now) and are ranked as the No. 1 team in all of Division II. It all starts with the leadership this team has, starting from the top down.
“The coaches want us to figure stuff out on and off the field as a team,” said Diep. “They give us, especially the leaders on the team, a lot of responsibility, which helps us grow as a team and individually, too.”
The team is firing on all cylinders because of their chemistry. It’s that underlying motivation of relationship that the Cougars have fed off of that keeps them pushing towards their ultimate goal this season. And, after finishing in the top 16 last season, the team has even higher expectations for themselves this year.
“We all know what our goal is,” said Ndubueze, “Which is to attend the Final Four National Tournament.”
This team is driven by many things, including the common language of soccer, diverse perspectives and backgrounds and faith. And their closeness as a team makes each time they step out on the pitch together more significant than the last. It certainly will be intriguing to see just how far the Cougars’ strong brotherhood can take them this November.