College Soccer: For Indiana State’s Rodas, an unforgettable trip to Africa
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 26, 2014 5:34PM
Crete-Monee product Alexandra Rodas poses with a player from Casablanca team Raja during her trip to Morocco with the Indiana State soccer team. | Supplied photo
Updated: June 27, 2014 2:13AM
Alexandra Rodas didn’t think her coach was serious when the Indiana State soccer team was told of plans for a trip to a tournament.
Rodas, a Crete-Monee product, and her teammates with the Sycamores were going to play in Morocco.
“When my coach (Erika True) told us, I didn’t think there was any way it was actually happening,” Rodas said. “Then when we found out it was real, I just couldn’t believe we were going to play soccer in Africa. Everyone was so excited for it and there was such a build-up.”
The trip, Rodas said, more than lived up to the hype.
The team spent 11 days in May in Morocco. They played two exhibition games as guests of the Sous le Haut Patronage de Sa Majeste le Roi Mohammed VI tournament, which was hosted by Hassan I University in Settat, a sister school of Indiana State.
Playing on a turf field covered with a layer of sand, the Sycamores won both their matches, 2-1 decisions over Raja and Wydad, both from Casablanca.
“It was really cool seeing how these girls from Africa played soccer,” Rodas said. “They were more technical than us. I think we’re a little more rough than we realized. There were a couple times when their girls really went down hard and I didn’t think we pushed them too hard. Their girls were so nice, though. They all gave us hugs and little kisses on the cheek.”
The team stayed in Settat for an Olympics-style competition of track and field and billiards events that goes on along with the soccer tournament.
“It was a lot of fun getting to sit back and watch those competitions,” Rodas said. “Some of our girls competed and won medals. Their medal presentations were in these huge tents and they had horses in there and huge peacocks that expanded their wings when they gave out the medals. It was crazy.”
After leaving Settat, the team spent time visiting landmarks in Marrakesh, a popular tourist destination, and got some down time on the beaches of Essaouira and El Jadida, where they rode camels and horses along the shores.
One of Rodas’ favorite parts was shopping at a 19th-century medina.
“There was a huge market where you could buy things and bargain with people,” she said. “There were just so many different types of people there. They spoke so many different languages. I met one guy that knew French, Arabic, Spanish, German and English.
“It was good to take a step back and see how things are like in another country, too. The workers have to work so hard there. You see people riding donkeys. It’s so much different than it is here.”
For Rodas, who will be a senior in the fall, it was her first trip out of the country. It was certainly an unforgettable one.
“Traveling with this group of girls was really special,” she said. “Playing soccer with these girls who we couldn’t really communicate with, but we could bond over our love of soccer with, was one of the most priceless things I could experience.”