11 international players come to play soccer at UHV (video)
Oct. 2, 2013 at 5:02 a.m.
Rajan Ghag arrived in Victoria in 2011 with a suitcase, a bag and a desire to play soccer.
A native of Bedford, England, Ghag came to the University of Houston-Victoria men's soccer team to follow his dream.
He left his family and everything he knew to continue to play a sport. Now in his third season, his dream has not changed.
"I like it so far," the 21-year-old said. "I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm happy with the move over here. I just got to try hard to make it better."
When Ghag arrived, he was one of seven international players to play for the Jaguars. In 2012, three of those players returned to the team, and this season, two of the original seven remain.
The team currently has 11 international players, 10 of who are from Scotland and England - the highest number UHV has had on its four-year-old men's soccer team.
"With soccer, it's a world game," Jaguars coach Adrian Rigby said. "I think as a coach, you want to look for the best talent whether it's locally, within the state of Texas, but also internationally as well, to bring the best players."
Of the 11 international players, nine are new to the team. Out of those nine, eight are freshmen.
Recruiting to Victoria
For Rigby, he wants to find the best players and it doesn't matter where they come from.
Since UHV created its soccer program in 2010, putting talent on the field has been Rigby's objective. Now, the goal is becoming fruitful.
"First, when we were starting off, it was late in the recruiting cycle. With that, we kind of had to take players in where they didn't play our system," Rigby said. "But now we're getting players where they fit our system of play. Going forward, it's implementing, carrying over each year to go into it."
For the Jaguars, recruiting starts during the season, but mostly takes place in the off-season.
Rigby and his coaching staff have gone on recruiting trips to Scotland and England to see showcase as well as other places in the state, said UHV athletics director Ashley Walyuchow.
For international players, they do not receive similar financial aid that U.S. citizens receive.
As a result, recruits apply for international scholarships to maintain paying for school.
Though Rigby said he receives two-to-three scholarships for the men's team, the scholarships can be split among players. Rigby declined to comment which players have received scholarships, or how players pay for living expenses.
Rigby said he looks for players who can contribute to their own education financially or can receive academic money.
"One reason they've chosen our school is it's financially more affordable than other universities in the U.K.," Rigby said. "For that, they are able to experience life in the U.S. or experience their education over here in a different learning environment."
Marcus Watt is one of the nine new players on the team. Hailing from Arbroath, Scotland, coming to UHV was a chance to pursue academics and sports.
"Here, you've got that goal chasing dream, and then you have Plan B, which is obviously academics," the 19-year-old freshman said. "Back home, you kind of have to pick one or the other."
Having international players is not a new phenomenon, said Walyuchow. One of their first international athletes was from Venezuela.
"The only challenges it brings is they meet the F1-VISA requirements," Walyuchow said. "If they're coming here for the first time, there's a bit more paper work."
Students who come from abroad will need to submit a VISA, which is given to the U.S. government. If a student is coming from a country where their first language is not English, they will take a Test of English as a Foreign Language exam to see their proficiency of the language.
Adjusting to the Crossroads
When Connor McGillivray arrived to Victoria in August, he thought having other people getting used to his accent would be the most difficult transition. It wasn't.
"The biggest culture shock is probably the heat," McGillivray said. "I come from like 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). Here, it's like 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)."
Ghag acclimated himself to the weather. He also adjusted to not seeing family around.
When he heard about a new batch of players arriving, he knew it would be difficult for them.
"Sometimes, like you speak to them on the side, just to see how they're doing, how their classes are going," Ghag said. "It's well worth it because I know how it feels to come to Texas not knowing anyone - just making that move."
Watt, who lived in a town of more than 16,000 people, had to adjust to a bigger city.
"Everyone else is coming here thinking Victoria is small; I think Victoria is big," Watt said. "I consider this a city. You can't walk anywhere here."
The Jaguars have a record of 8-3, and recently had a seven game winning streak snapped Saturday.
They hope a new winning streak will start Saturday against St. Thomas - Houston, one which hopefully could last until November with the team being called conference champions.
"You miss your family back home, but after a while, I'm not really homesick," McGillivray said. "Just having international boys here helps so much. We're all like best mates now."