Verona, Venice, Rome, Milan. These were just some of the stops made by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University’s (NYU-Poly) men’s soccer team during its first international trip to Italy this spring.
“Every team should do this,” said Adam Lakawicz, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in technology management. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The team was abroad to play in four pre-arranged exhibition games against club teams in each city, the highlight being a match against Hellas Verona’s Under-19 Academy team, which featured players soon to be playing for the Italian Serie B professional team. The team also had a chance to play against the Italian college champions Colegio de Roma and ended the match in an impressive draw.
Along the way, the team took in some site seeing, including a professional game between AC Milan and Lecce, “a highlight of the trip,” the members agreed. But, bonding as a team was also an important part of the experience. “I looked at everyone like a brother while we were traveling. It was like being with family,” said Gursimran Toor, a junior civil engineering student.
“The camaraderie on and off the field really improved our relationships,” agreed junior Allen Rohr, who is majoring in mechanical engineering.
Encountering teams who train year round, some with members who have been playing together since they were children, left the NYU-Poly athletes inspired, rather than intimidated.
“After the Verona game, we took everything [their team] did on the field and applied it to our own game,” said Salvatore DeVito, a junior pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, adding that competing against such talented opponents boosted his confidence for next season.
“We saw where we were in comparison to [an international team],” added Lakawicz.
Their coach, Nate Kalin, agreed. "By far, this experience gave each student-athlete a more worldy view; but, it also created stronger bonds within our team and allowed all of us to learn more about each other. I think each player was grateful for the overall experience and felt a sense of accomplishment having represented his university and his country on and off the field."
The team was quick to point out that an experience like this is within reach to all competitors. To make it across the pond, the team spent two years fundraising with 50/50 drawings at games, collections, selling T-shirts and taking donations.
“We made it happen,” said Toor. “Anyone who wants to do this should take the time and find the funding. It’s possible.”