Foreign exchange boosts Bremerton’s soccer stock

Bremerton exchange students Mayara Simone (left) and Sophie Berglund bring international flair to the Lady Knights soccer team. - Photo by James Mange
Bremerton exchange students Mayara Simone (left) and Sophie Berglund bring international flair to the Lady Knights soccer team.
— image credit: Photo by James Mange

One of the hardest things for exchange students to master is a new language.

But for a pair of Bremerton soccer players, letting their feet do some talking has helped the transition.

Mayara Simone, from Brazil, and Sophie Berglund, of Norway, arrived early for the school year because they both play the world’s most popular game, football.

It’s been a win-win situation for the team and the pair.

“I think it’s a great experience to play with new players,” Berglund said. “We have a lot of fun with this team.”

Simone agrees, off the field as well as on.

“They always introduce us to new people,” she said, “so it makes it easy for us to make friends.”

Making friends quickly was critical, as both come from smaller schools back home.

Berglund hails from Tromso, Norway, known as The Paris of the North. Tromso is an island in the northern part of the country. The climate and landscape are very much like Kitsap’s. What is different is the soccer.

Berglund has played on teams since she was 7 years old, but the teams aren’t associated with the schools.

“I think the play here is on a higher level,” Berglund said. “At home there are a few good teams, but here everybody is good.”

For Simone it’s much the same experience with the skill level, but she faces other challenges as well. Simone has been playing soccer for eight years, but in Brazil she plays indoors.

“It’s a faster game,” she said.

She said the brand of ball she’s used to features a smaller, heavier ball and only five players per side. In Brazil, teams are associated with the school, but each sport goes year round.

Still, both have made the transition well.

“Sophie and Mayara bring quality soccer experience to our Lady Knights team,” coach Lance McCoy said. “Each of them can play several different positions in a game situation. Both of the girls are, however, different in playing styles. Sophie is a very physical player. She does not shy away from contact on any 50-50 ball opportunity. She has been puzzled as to why she is being called for so many fouls. In Norway, the girls are taught to play tough.

“Mayara, on the other hand is less intense, but nevertheless a very skillful player. She does her best work in the central midfield, where she can help dictate the flow of the game. Mayara has very good technical ability, among the best on the team. She is very confident with the ball at her feet, and she is learning our quick passing game.”

So far this year Sophie has one goal and three assists and Mayara scored her first goal of the year on Wednesday, putting in a header off a Jacki Hill corner kick. Simone has made two assists on the season.

Both girls play in the midfield and in the offensive zone.

“It is rare that female foreign exchange soccer players play at their level,” McCoy added. “Over the years, I have coached exchange kids, and I must say these two young ladies have been by far the most complete players I have ever coached.”

Simone is from Itanhaem, Brazil, just around the corner from Rio De Janeiro, past Sao Paulo on the southern coast.

Dubbed, “the second oldest city in Brazil,” Itanhaem is noted for its beauty and its beaches.

“I’m always cold here,” Simone said.

Despite their different backgrounds, Mayara and Sophie have one thing very much in common: temperate personalities.

“Both of these girls are great teammates,” McCoy said. “They have nice personalities and they are well liked by their new teammates.”

Being immersed in the English-speaking world of the close-knit soccer team has helped both girls with their communication skills as well.

“I was the least nervous about speaking English,” Berglund said, “but I found out it was the hardest thing.”

“Yes, English class is the hardest,” Simone said. “It’s nice to have teammates who are always eager to explain new words.”

But there’s one word they all understand. GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL!

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