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Beyond the Endzone – Ricardos Football Odyssey in Ireland

Photo by Manuel Navarro on Unsplash.com

“Sometimes I’d like to take the ball in my hand and run with it, and then I realise that there is no endzone.”

In a good mood, the tanned and well-trained young man sits down on the wooden substitutes’ bench on this grey Dublin morning. Ricardo is used to warmer weather in his home country, but even the cool temperatures of the Irish winter don’t put the 21-year-old Valencian in a bad mood. A good six months ago, the Spaniard ventured abroad to complete his degree in International Business in the Irish capital. In addition to his family and friends, Ricardo has also left his real sporting passion, rugby, at home, at least temporarily.

Foto by Peter Glaser on Unsplash

Ricardo has been playing rugby in his home country for five years now, where he is an integral part of the RC Valencia team. In September 2023, Richi, as he is known to his friends, decided to complete his studies abroad and moved to the Irish capital. Even though rugby is one of the most popular sports in Ireland, Richi decided to take a break from his sport and try something completely different.

Ricardos Home Team RC Valencia

“Of course I knew that rugby is very popular in Ireland, but I made a conscious decision not to look for a club here. I just wanted to actively try out a different sport, even though I may not have made the most creative choice with football, I still love the game.”

Ricardo has been following all Real Madrid matches since he was a child and, like his whole family, he is a fan of the Los Blancos. Richi is now lacing up his football boots for the first time in Ireland, where he plays for the Griffith College football team. Although he is more of an attacking flanker in rugby, he has moved into defence in football. He has already made five appearances for his team, missing just one competitive game so far this season. Ricardo is an important support for his team in defence and is particularly notable for his physicality and stamina.

“During the trial training sessions, I wasn’t even asked which position I play, our coach came to me after the first session and asked me if I would play as a defender at home. I just told him that I’d never really played football before, and he gave me a confused look.”

Ricardo hardly noticed the lack of training, however, because the special thing about college football in Ireland is that almost every team is reorganised at the start of a season, as there are usually only a few players from the previous season who are still students at the respective college.

Most players return to their home country after a season, as they have completed their studies, or their semester abroad is over. However, the Griffith College team’s season so far has not gone according to plan: bad luck with injuries and an early change of coach led to their elimination in the preliminary round of the championship, and the team was also knocked out of the cup in the first round.

“Unfortunately, our season hasn’t gone as expected so far. After three games, our coach told us that he was emigrating to Canada because his girlfriend had been offered a job there, which shocked us all at first. But now we have to recover and give our all in the next few tournaments we have left under our new coach. But the most important thing is that we all stay motivated, which I think is looking pretty good so far. The boys and I are having a lot of fun on the pitch, even if we can’t win very often. (laughs)”

Ricardo is currently using the break from competition to recover from an illness. The 21-year-old has been plagued by circulatory problems for some time, but doctors have not yet been able to give an exact diagnosis. Ricardo will therefore spend the next few weeks in Spain to fully recover from his problems. The next competition for him and his team will be a national futsal tournament (indoor football under certain rules) in mid-April. Depending on how the team performs, Ricardo will hopefully be able to compete against the best universities in Ireland once he is fully recovered, playing both at home in Dublin’s Crumlin suburb and away across the Republic. Travelling with his team has been one of Ricardo’s favourite activities with the team over the past year.

“The away trips have been the most fun for me over the last year, you get to spend a whole day travelling with your friends and teammates in your own bus, seeing new cities and regions of Ireland. Even though we mostly just see the football pitches and the motorways, those days have always been very special for me. That’s why I’m focussing on getting fit again as quickly as possible so that I can be part of the next trips.”

After completing his studies in Ireland, Richi plans to return to rugby, but is currently keeping fit as best he can with his illness. Until the time comes and Ricardo returns to Valencia, he wants to be on the pitch with his team as often as possible. His goal is to win the national futsal championship in Ireland, even if it is a long and hard road to get there.

The Basic Rules of Futsal explained
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