Members of the Colonie Soccer Club shake hands with rival team, Balasar, before the game begins.
COLONIE — Colonie Soccer Club, a local soccer organization comprising junior and high school female students from the Voorheesville, Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Guilderland, and Colonie school districts, has just returned from a fourth “good will” trip to Portugal, where they played local teams and learned about the Portuguese culture.
“I started planning this trip last August with our coach, Joe Santos,” said Katy Bogart, the mother of two daughters who have played on Santos’ team and a two-time veteran of the Portugal trip. “Coach is a native of Portugal and loves to share his passion of Portugal and soccer with his players. He arranged all the soccer games, hotel accommodations, and other events for the team.”
Santos, who has coached soccer for more than 40 years, said he was inspired to plan the international soccer excursions while he was traveling the country with his mother while she was still alive. It was during one of those trips that he discovered a beachside hotel with a soccer field; a hotel that often played host to international professional soccer teams.” And so I thought about it and I came back and told the parents and the players,” he said. “And now it’s every three or four years another group wants to go.”
Santos developed a relationship with the hotel, which gives him a good deal, he said. And he has another contact who arranges the games against local teams and where the games are played. “So,” he said, “it’s just a matter of getting the players and the parents, and off we go.”
With the exception of the games, a ceremony and an event planned for their last night in the country, families are left largely to their own devices. Each girl travels with a family member or guardian and families are free to rent cars to visit local locations. This year, said Santos, the weather cooperated and the trip went “exceedingly well.”
The team certainly competed well, winning against each of the three women’s teams they played: 7-0, 3-0, and 2-1.
Bogart’s daughter, Jenny Bogart said she thought the other teams were friendly and played a fair and skilled game, especially the third game they played against a team called Balasar. “It seemed like they had been playing together for a long time,” she said, “and they had good passing and good foot skills.”
Her favorite experience of the whole trip was playing the games. “It was fun to play on a beautiful field in a large stadium under the lights,” she said. “The third game was the best because the other team was very good.”
The whole team met the mayor of Povoa de Varzim, the city the team visited. “We presented seven proclamations to the mayor from US Congressman Paul Tonko, NY State Senator George Amedore, NY State Senator Jim Tedisco, County Executive Dan McCoy, the Town of Colonie, the Town of New Scotland, and the Village of Voorheesville,” said Katy Bogart.
Calling the games “a treat,” Bogart said she enjoyed visiting Peneda-Geres National Park, where they hiked, climbed a waterfall and saw wild horses. “The mountains are spectacular and the people are warm and friendly,” she said.
Jenny Bogart enjoyed visiting the Shrine of Fatima where they toured the shrine and attended a mass. She said she also liked the folk dance the team attended on the final evening, where local people performed Portuguese folk dances and invited players and parents to participate in the dances. “The traditional Portuguese music and women’s dresses were beautiful,” she said.
“There are a lot of promotional packages that kids can sign up for to go play in Europe or South America,” said Santos. “But it’s exorbitant prices. And I thought, ‘Well, we could do this for much less.’ And so we do do it for much less.”
Travel costs are split evenly between the families and funds raised or donated by local sponsors such as Family Danz Heating and Cooling, DeNooyer Chevrolet, the Capital Region Labor Management Committee, the NY State Correction Officers Union, JCB Specialties, Soccer Unlimited and Pellegrinos.