Editor’s note: With a number of New England-based NPSL sides set to start their seasons this weekend, Rhode Island Reds left back Kevin Gil will be keeping a diary for NESoccertoday.com this season. In his first entry, Kevin talks about his love for the beautiful game, growing up in Central Falls, R.I., and some of the challenges that a student-athlete faces in trying to achieve the dream of playing professional soccer.
Hi everyone, my name is Kevin Alfredo Gil, and I love soccer. I grew up in Central Falls, Rhode Island living, breathing, and dreaming the sport. I’m now 20 years of age, and have played for several clubs, teams, and schools since the day I began to walk.
My parents were both born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, a city where the sport gives people life very similar to Central Falls. The small, impoverished city of Central Falls I grew up in molded me to become the individual I am today inspired me to represent my state of Rhode Island this summer playing for the Rhode Island Reds Football Club in their 3rd season in NPSL.
Central Falls is a city with cultural and ethnic diversity. In the one square mile that the city resides in there are people from Africa, South America, Central America, and many other parts of the world. The majority of the families in Central Falls migrated from their native countries in search of opportunity, including my family.
I never once would have thought that soccer would lead me to where I am today and serve as a tool to open doors to better the circumstances my family has lived in for the 24 years they’ve been in America. We aren’t exactly poor, but my parents have had to work very hard to provide for my sister and I to be able to strive to become anything we’d want to become. In my case, I aspire to play soccer professionally, and also one day become a soccer journalist.
In elementary school, I would wear my indoor soccer shoes everyday and a pair of soccer shorts under my jeans. I did this so I’d always be ready to play soccer if the opportunity presented itself. To this day, I wear soccer shorts under my pants everyday, a habit I was never able to abandon just as I’ve never been able to leave the sport.
I currently am a collegiate soccer player at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, approaching my third year this fall. This past season, our team won our conference championship and earned a spot to compete in the NCAA Division III tournament. We lost in the second round to a team that proved to be far more superior to us.
As a starting left back that played every minute of every one of our 23 games this season, I’ve felt obligated to bring my soccer to the next level in order to help out my team next fall. I’m hoping playing at such a high competitive level for the Reds will adequately prepare me to help my college team be better next season and at the same time help the Reds develop their soccer club.
I began training for the Reds this past week after 3 months without playing the game due to some partially torn ligaments in my right ankle. There was nothing that could have motivated me more to do the proper rehabilitation and fitness to get healthy to play in our home opener this upcoming Saturday night against the Brooklyn Italians in Cranston Stadium. This is a powerhouse club in the National Premier Soccer League’s (NPSL) North Atlantic Conference and a former U.S. Open Cup winner. There is no team I would rather begin a season playing against than this side from Brooklyn, as it will provide a solid basis for us to evaluate our soccer as a team playing against arguably the best team in our conference.
Playing in the NPSL isn’t easy, especially as a college soccer player. I’ve noticed that there are high expectations for those who play in the NPSL that have experience with the collegiate game. These players are used to organized, aggressive, and physically and mentally demanding soccer. I noticed the important role I play within my club since the first two training sessions where I scrimmaged on the first team against the reserves despite sitting out for months prior to the sessions. There was nearly no time to get re-adjusted to the flow and tempo of the game, but this would not be an excuse for me to not give it my all. With Head Coach Kabba Joof having the final say on who makes the 18-man roster for Saturday’s game, I was ready to do anything in my capabilities to earn my spot on the field.
As the season continues, I will be writing this journal to share my story of playing for the RI Reds FC in their 2014 NPSL season providing more detail on who I am, my life as a college student-athlete, and the challenges that come with playing in the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid.
I aspire to become a professional soccer player once I graduate from Wheaton, but in the meantime, I hope to return the support that this club has provided me with since I committed to playing with the team. Reds President Jonathan Fonseca and the rest of the board and coaching staff have been endlessly supportive of my injury and has been patient with my return to the pitch. This immediate hospitality has only given me more of a reason to represent this club and help them reach their goals as an upcoming soccer club in America.
I’m hoping to help the Reds become a better club. I’m hoping that the NPSL will provide me with the right exposure to continue chasing my dream and that my story will inspire others to pursue careers in a field they are passionate about. For me, my passion is simply soccer.
Note: The Rhode Island Reds kick off their 2014 campaign at 7pm on Saturday when they host the Brooklyn Italians at Cranston Stadium.