Vipers boys soccer shoots for Azorean matchup

By Angie Hilsman | Jun 28, 2017
Courtesy of: Nicole Jackman

Dartmouth’s Vipers Soccer League is going international with an August trip to the Azores, but the weeklong vacation stems from family tradition.

The U12 boys soccer team will spend August 9-17 in Sao Miguel playing against three of the island's local teams in Lagoa, Povoação, and Santo Antonio.

“This will be a magical trip," said Coach Rick Martinez. “The team will experience excellent competition, but also learn about a place that is connected to their own hometown.”

The overseas travel — which includes a cultural exchange and dinner with the Azorean families after each match — began nine years ago.

Martinez said the first Vipers’ cultural trip was held nine years ago, when his son Andrew was 11-years-old. Martinez himself had grown up playing soccer, and travelled often with his team. He wanted to pass the experience on to his sons.

“Whether they had a Portuguese background or did not have a Portuguese background, I thought it would be fun to fly international and play games,” recalled Martinez of the first trip. “Although there’s a language barrier, it didn’t matter. They sat down and had dinner together and formed friendships.”

Now, with his son Lucas on the team, Martinez has organized a second trip. But he said it wouldn’t be possible without the chemistry and hardwork between the players’ families.

“A majority of the boys have been teammates-in-crime probably since they were five-years-old. They have a friendship in and out of soccer,” said Martinez.

Over the past year, the team raised $8,000 with such events as a golf tournament at Allendale Country Club, canning at Stop & Shop, and a Christmas dinner at Lusitano Restaurant in Fall River. The monies will fund airfare tickets for the 12 players, and gifts — such as plaques for the hosting towns, soccer balls, and the Vipers are covering the dinner tabs — for the opposing teams.

"We raised extra money to swap t-shirts with the boys," said soccer mom Genevieve Correia, explaining that the Azorean teams will receive Vipers jerseys. Correia will travel with her son Michael, as well as about 70 other players' family members. Family members will pay their own hotel and airfare.

Although Correia’s fifth grade son said he has not yet learned any Portuguese, he is set for the trip.

"I have a Go Pro, so I'm probably going to pack that," Michael said. He started with the team four years ago, and currently plays stopper. He said he’s most excited about hanging out with friends and coaches.

"It's really fun hanging out with my team and playing soccer. I really like the action of the sport," he said.

Center midfielder Andrew Souza agreed. “I’m most excited to play soccer with new kids and different kids in different countries,” he said. “I’m excited to see the soccer fields and stadiums there.”

Souza plans to pack his S.L. Benfica jersey for the trip to represent his favorite Portuguese soccer team.

Following the matches, the Dartmouth visitors will do some sightseeing. Stops include the village of Furnas to see natural hot springs, volcanic craters, and to witness a traditional meal cooked in the ground — geothermal style — said Correia. The team will also stop at the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, which consists of two small, different colored lakes connected by a narrow strait, said Correia.

"One lake is blue, and one is green. That's a hiking area as well. They'll be able to walk around and check that out," she said.

"The trip is especially exciting because it allows these 12 boys, all from Dartmouth, to visit and be hosted by Dartmouth’s own sister cities, Lagoa and Povoação," said mom Nicole Jackman.

Dartmouth, Massachusetts holds sister city agreements with Nordeste, Lagoa, and Povoação in the Azores, and with the town of Dartmouth, England. The historically-based connections are aimed at boosting tourism, celebrating the two cultures, and strengthening connections across the Atlantic.

Correia lauded Martinez, adding that the trip wouldn't be possible without his leadership.

"If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be doing half the things we're doing together. He's created more of like a family unit amongst the boys," she said.

The traveling team typically plays at a regional, state, and national level during the spring and fall. Tryouts are held yearly, and the program focuses on technical and tactical skill development, according to its website.

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