The team poses for a picture against a beautiful Portugal sunset. Photo courtesy Bill Hanson.
Over the summer, the Mercer Island Boys Soccer team took their bi-annual trip to Portugal, which included sightseeing, team bonding and opportunities to play other teams from the area.
Every two years, the team selects a trip for a select group of players to go on. After going to Spain two years ago, they decided on Lisbon, Portugal as their next destination. Typically, the trip is funded by the school; however, this year the team ran into some difficulties.
“The school actually said no [to the trip],” team member Jaden Krauser said. “So, we had to get private funding and we had some fundraisers.”
One of the items on the team’s itinerary when they got there was sightseeing. They toured various small cities surrounding Lisbon, including Sesimbra, Setubal and Sintra.
In addition to the sightseeing, the group also had a variety of other bonding experiences, including learning to surf together and the opportunity to watch Benefica, the professional soccer club from Lisbon.
“I’d say one of the best [bonding experiences] was going to the Benefica game,” Krauser said. “It was cool to see how they played at the professional level and we were all in the seats, and we got popcorn and hot dogs, and we all were talking for a solid two hours, that was a good experience.”
In the 10 days that they were there, Mercer Island faced off against three local teams from the area in friendly matches, winning all but their last one. The talent that this last team displayed left a lasting impression on the group.
“It showed people from anywhere can play soccer, and at a really good level,” Krauser said. “We had better gear than them, better balls, and everything, and they came in there and just [dominated] us.”
Despite the fact that the two groups faced a language barrier, they were still able to come close together and have a good time.
“They didn’t speak a lot of English, but we came to bond with them and joke around with them, which was a cool experience,” Krauser said.
The bonding experience between the teammates could translate into success in the regular season, and many of the team members now feel a newfound sense of chemistry, according to Krauser.
“Coming into the soccer season, [the trip] is going to benefit us because we are a tighter group,” Krauser said. “I know a lot of kids felt uncomfortable, especially some underclassmen, but by the end of the trip they were perfectly comfortable, and at the end of the soccer season, that will be important and will help us.”