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10 Jun 2018
US girls at the Euro Winners Cup
“We take a huge lesson home to our team”
One week after the competition ended, the Euro Winners Cup still keeps bringing stories that make it clear that beach soccer, and its people, are a special kind.
Elizabeth Eastman (Higicontrol Melilla), Jennifer Muñoz (HTC Zwolle Beach Soccer) Paxton Scott (Portsmouth BSC), Luisa Meza and Jeane Sunseri-Warp (Sporting Clube Portugal) are the protagonists of yet another inspiring story to come out of Nazaré and the Euro Winners Cup.
These players, coming all the way from the United States, came to Nazaré with common goal: honing their beach soccer skills and learning as much as they can in order to help women’s beach soccer develop back across the Atlantic.
Elizabeth Eastman has been taking part in the competition since its first edition in Catania, back in 2016, but this is the first (hopefully of many!) Euro Winners Cup for Luisa, Jeane, Paxton and Jennifer.
They loved every minute of their experience in Portugal: the games, the event, the city, the atmosphere and, of course, the mass convergence of players from all over the world…
In short, they experienced what being part of the beach soccer family truly entails, and that week in Nazaré will be a chapter of their lives that they will never forget.
“We are absolutely loving it. It is a life-changing experience. There is a lot of learning we can take back to our team… It’s just the best experience”, Jeane explained.
“This is, simply, the highest level I have ever played against”, says Luisa Meza. “We have played a lot of competitions in the States, in California, and there is nothing like this. And being able to play in real stadium with spectators makes it a whole new experience for a lot of us. It makes us really proud and being treated with such professional standards is just amazing.”
“It is not only the players you get to play against, it’s also what you get to see and learn from all the teams and players, both men and women, that play here”, Jeane adds.
“The passion of the crowd and the people, the sport culture you become a part of, is something that really brings you to another level. It is just astonishing. Have you seen the Viking-kind salute with our fans at the end of the game? It is unbelievable”, Luisa recalls.
“The professionalism in the competition, at all levels, is something that also amazed me”, Paxton added.
The story of how the girls enrolled into their teams perfectly demonstrates how the people in beach soccer are entwined and connected to each other.
Luisa, whose mother is Portuguese-born from the Açores, got her opportunity from none other than Sporting Clube legend, Madjer. Luisa has played here in Portugal in the past, and one day she received the call from Madjer asking if she wanted to join Sporting. She immediately accepted, bringing her teammate at NorCal, Jeane Sunseri-Warp, with her.
A friendly game in Trinidad and Tobago was the beginning of the story for some of the others. This is where Jennifer Muñoz met Annelies Martijn, the Portsmouth BSC and the Netherlands National Team goalkeeper. Several weeks ago, Annelies contacted her to see if she was available to play for her former club, HTC Zwolle: “I’m in” was her immediate response.
Similarly, Paxton, another member of the NorCal team, got her big break from that friendly game in Tobago last November. “We played against Portsmouth, and several weeks ago we started having conversations with Perry Northeast, the Portsmouth coach.” Her answer could not have been clearer: “I’ll be there whenever you need me!”
Liz, in turn, already knew many players from past editions of the Euro Winners Cup, and her connection came from some of the Spanish National Beach Soccer Women’s team, who, when playing in Switzerland last summer, asked her if she would join Higicontrol Melilla for the 2018 edition.
“I am excited to see more and more Americans coming to play in the Euro Winners. It is great for us, and, it helps us in our way to see a US Women’s National Team become a reality”, Liz added.
Whereas the language barrier might not have been a problem for Paxton or Jennifer, communicating was a bit more challenging for Luisa, Jeane and Elizabeth: “Aixata [her Higicontrol teammate] translates everything for me, she’s been awesome. And the rest of the girls are always there to help each other out. As we have often said, we are like a big family, and we support each other to make things as easy as possible”, she explained.
After the competition came to its conclusion, and they prepared everything to fly back home, along with their team’s jerseys, they also packed their bags with lots of lessons, news skills and friends, a wider understanding of the game and bags of experience and aspirations too.
These imported goods will be shared with their teammates and colleagues back in the US, making their spell in Nazaré profitable for others and help spread the beach soccer love.
And this is just the beginning: “There’s going to be more of us joining in coming editions, we are absolutely certain of that”, Jeane concluded.
The common dream of the five players is seeing the US National Team become a reality, and for it to start competing internationally like so many other nations. With this idea in mind, the role that these five beach soccer pioneers from the US played in Portugal is huge.
As Jennifer Muñoz explains, “We know that we are here representing our club, of course, but also representing our nation. This is something Brian Easler, my coach, who has always been so helpful and supportive, told me every day: ‘Just go there, learn a lot, enjoy it as much as you can, and represent us well”.
This is exactly what she, and the other four girls, did. In reality, every one of them added an essential piece to a global project: the development of women’s beach soccer in their homeland, and around the world.