Soccer boys from Westlake head to Chile for the trip of a lifetime

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by Hannah Smith

JANUARY 2017 — In the late heat of the day, Dallin Weller wiped the sweat of his face and looked toward a soccer field. Despite the immense heat, his team was still playing, though they looked nearly depleted. Several players had already thrown up throughout the day as well as during the game. Dallin, lying in wet towels, watched from the sidelines as Carter Evans and their team played against the Comercio Atletico, currently the Chile region champs. It was twenty minutes into the game and things were not looking good for the Utah Surf team.

A few days earlier, on January 13th, the Surf team landed in Chile, ready to relax, soak up the sun and play some soccer. The team was comprised of high school players from all over the Alpine School District ranging from ages 17-18 years old. The team was lead by Trevor Lanham, who takes soccer players on these trips annually. The team had openings for more players, and Carter Evans and Dallin Weller were a few of the Westlake Junior Varsity High School players asked to play. Both accepted and started practicing with the Surf team about a month before they left. The team would play with four other club teams in Santiago, Talca, Villa Alemana and San Javier.  

The first destination was Santiago, a big city in Chile. The boys explored the Costanera Center there and visited the highest building in South America.  After this, they traveled to San Javier.

The team attended LDS church on Sunday. “They take arm wrestling really serious,” Carter states, saying also that their competitiveness made games “actually kinda fun,” and added to the camaraderie of the teams. In Chile, almost every church building has a futsal court or soccer field behind their buildings, showing just how important soccer is to the Chilean culture.

The US team was able to play the church team which turned out to be an amazing experience for the boys. The boys were able to get their first taste of South American Soccer through the game they played with the LDS ward team. “South Americans love soccer and it is apart of their culture,” Lenham states. “I wanted the boys to have the opportunity to play soccer in Chile and experience the soccer culture in the south.” As Carter recalled, “When we were beating them they started getting pretty personal” but “what goes on the field with [Chileans] stays on the field with them” as Dallin remarks. That’s not to say that their hospitality isn’t top notch. On several nights one Chilean family invited the team to eat dinner in their home. During several games the fans would switch from cheering on their home team to the US team.

After church they then headed to the beach for some fun. The boys played in the sand and had a barbecue afterward. They slept in beachside cabins, which, as Carter and Dallin recall, were “105 degrees in the middle of the night.” But overall, they enjoyed themselves.

On Monday the team headed back to San Javier for their first game. Dallin, Carter and Coach Lanham agree that this game was their best one. Their Surf team lead against the Talca team the entire game with an ending score of 3-1. After the game both teams decided to have an ice cream party together. Both teams had a great evening. “Even though they didn’t speak each other’s languages, they were able to communicate somehow,” Lanham states. “The game and evening represented everything I wanted out of the trip, which was soccer, culture and a new experience for the boys.” After a fantastic first night, the team went back to the hotel to get some shut eye, ready for another day.

On Tuesday the team spent the day in San Javier touring. While experiencing the different culture in Chile, Dallin and Carter confided that they really only needed to know about seven words to navigate Chile: El baño (bathroom), Si (yes), No (no), Quanto Questo (how much), Agua (water), Gracias (thanks), and Cerdo (pork). The next game was against the San Javier Tricolor team. Utah Surf won by two goals with the score going back and forth. After the games, Utah Surf team would present each of the teams with a plaque containing the American flag and eagle as a show of friendly competition. Each player was also given a medal containing an American flag and eagle. “The other teams were always excited to get the medals,” Lanham said. This show of friendship helped both teams to have a good time playing an internationally loved sport.

Wednesday was spent in San Javier playing against the Talca Comercio Atletico team. This game was against the region champions. However, the Utah Surf team wasn’t looking so good. Most of the boys were suffering from heat stroke and food poisoning. Chile was experiencing a heat wave and air conditioning was a luxury not many Chileans can afford. Most of the team had been throwing up that day–Dallin Weller included. Much against his pleading, Dallin had to wait on the side lines while the team started; Coach Lanham wasn’t convinced Dallin was well enough to play. After placing cold towels on top of Dallin, Coach delivered some unfortunate news: “I told Dallin he wasn’t going to be able to play that night, but he wasn’t going to have any of that.” Lenham says. Dallin, determined to play with his team, pleaded with Lanham to let him into the game. “Dallin reminds me of the black knight (from Monty Python), when they cut his arm off and he still wanted to fight, stating it was just a ‘flesh wound’. . . that was Dallin during this entire trip.” After some convincing, Dallin was able to get back in the game, only to be sent back to the sidelines only a little while later. “I don’t even know what happened” Dallin recalls. A Talca player had elbowed Weller in the face, sending him throwing up to the benches. Due to his players exhaustion, Lanham decided to call the game twenty five minutes into the second half. “I had boys playing their hearts out and throwing up on the sidelines,” which dedication, he said, did not go unnoticed. Although the Comercio Atletico team won, they asked the Surf team to come back next year because they didn’t feel they had won under the right conditions. The game ended in a close score: Surf with two points and with Comercio Atletico at four points. 

Thursday was spent sightseeing Santiago. One difference between the US and Chile is driving. While they didn’t have to drive on the opposite side of the road, they did see some interesting things. “It was crazy… They had very little regulations. Like on the side of the freeway they’d be selling watermelons [and] kids with BB guns were in between the two highways like the dividers on the freeway. People on horseback were on the side of the highway. . . kids playing soccer on the side of the freeway, and we’re going like 100 miles per hour. . . it was just crazy,” Carter recounts.

Apart from the busy highways, the team also got to see street performers and rub shoulders with some street merchants. One US dollar is worth about 18.84 pesos. “They’d try to rip us off so much” Dallin admits, but their prices matched their qualities. The boys recounted that items such as hand made hammocks could be found within the many shops that scatter the city. Not only did the team get to experience the buying culture of a Chilean street, they got a taste of their food as well. Often times the boys would have to buy bottled water because the water in Chile isn’t the safest for them. The Chileans really showed the boys their hospitality when it came to meals: “They’d feed us so much food,” Carter exclaimed when recalling meal times. Breakfast was mostly filled with grains while lunch was the time to pack the meat. “Lunch was their big meal–like how dinner is for us, lunch is for them,” Carter states. Not only were big lunches served but dinner normally wasn’t served until very late at night, midnight being the typical time.

Friday was a beach day. The team enjoyed the black beach and cool breezes that the Chilean shores had to offer them. Today was the team’s last game, against Villa Alemana. The Utah Surf Team also won this game. The team was also able to go hiking and visit some amazing waterfalls.

Saturday was their last day in Chile. They went sightseeing around downtown Santiago. “It was fun taking the subway… it was interesting,” Carter affirms. The team was able to see several buildings in Santiago. One place they were able to visit was a cemetery. When traveling home Carter and Dallin realized just how lucky they are to live in the United States. Things such as air conditioned hotel rooms became like “heaven” to the boys. “Air conditioning never felt so nice when we got to the… hotel” Carter admitted, “It was so nice!” Dallin comments. While sad to leave Chile, the tired boys gratefully welcomed the familiar sight of home.

This trip offered many opportunities for the Surf team to learn and experience international soccer. Coach Trevor Lanham says that he wanted the boys to “have the opportunity to play soccer in Chile and experience the soccer culture in South America”. For sophomores Dallin and Carter specifically, the unique growth they experienced will stick with them for a while. Both Dallin and Carter were playing with boys two years older than them. The sophomores skill proved to be useful on the field and “contributed to the team during each game” Lanham states. While down in Chile the boys learned quite a bit about reading body language. Soccer, though a universal language offers many differing dialects or plays: “usually you’d expect reading the hips, like looking where the hips turn, but what I’ve learned is like looking at the knees cause… they always do these different jukes but if you watch the knees you can kinda tell which direction their thinking.” Dallin explains. Contrary to most American soccer, Chilean soccer players dribble the ball more allowing more creative plays for the players to make. Being in Chile allowed the boys to experience different forms of soccer than what they were used to.

This Chile soccer trip was an experience that will last for their lifetimes. The culture and atmosphere Dallin and Carter were exposed to provided for fun memories that they say they’ll forever look back on.