By Anna Brown, Union County News – Owner
USC Union’s international soccer players said they are enjoying their time in town, including the local cuisine, and when they are out in local restaurants or stores it isn’t uncommon for a stranger to come up and offer pay for their meal or other purchases.
Maximus Moriarity from England said he and Evan Vonner from France went to Family Dollar with fellow player Daniel Cooper and were in line to pay for their food. “There was this woman in front of us and she asked us, ‘Oh, you guys go to the college?’ I said, yes. She said, ‘Do you mind if I pay for your stuff.’ That never happens where I come from. She paid for all our stuff. That was just nice. That is the second time that has happened.”
Moriarity, an Exercise Science major, said he really likes Union, and the people are friendly. “But when I got here it was definitely a shock,” he said. “I am not used to being in a small town. But everyone has been nice.”
Michael Murphy, an Exercise Science major from England, said he also likes Union, and it is very different from the multi-cultural area he came from. He said one of the biggest challenges is finding transportation. “The hospitality is very nice,” he said. “Everyone wants to talk to us.”
The players said some of the local restaurants they like include Heart’s Family Restaurant, Naruto, Tokyo Express, Midway and Zaxby’s. “At Heart’s I got the chicken tenders and fries the grilled cheese and at Naruto I like the sesame chicken,” Moriarity said.
Nico Steinweg, a Sports Management major from Germany, said he and his friend and fellow player, Isa Muriarti from Switzerland, who is already 21, visited the Vape Shop beside Tokyo Express before going to eat. The owner of the Vape Shop and Isa both speak Albanian. “Then the owner of the vape shop came over and paid for our food,” Nico said.
Andrea Ferri, a business major from France, said he likes Midway Barbecue, one of the first restaurants Coach Marc Curlee took them to when they came to Union. “It is very country and we don’t have this in my town in France,” he said. “It is very, very different and it is good.”
Zaxby’s has been a hit with the players- none of them have that chain in their home country. “It’s our go to place,” Maxiumus said.
“I like China One,” said Niklas Winter, a Sports Management major from Germany.
The players said they like their teachers and enjoy interacting with them. Steven Lownes, Kevin Torres, Randy Ivey and financial director Bobby Holcombe are some of the names they mention. Nico Steinweg, a Sports Management major from Germany, said Torres is a favorite. He said he has never taken one of English teacher Randy Ivey’s classes, but he enjoys talking to him and seeing him in Waffle House.
“We sat with him and ate with him, and he paid for our food as well,” Nico said. “I always try to stop and talk to as many people as possible and not just walk past them. People are kind to us and we want to be as kind as possible as well.”
Niklas Winter, Sports Management major from Germany, said Holcombe has been very kind, including offering transportation.
The players said they appreciated USC Union Dean Dr. Randy Lowell coming to their games. “The teachers are very kind and friendly,” Winter said. “Where I am from there are so many in class the teacher cannot take time to speak with you after class or explain something if you don’t understand,” he said. “
Moriarty said public transportation makes it easier to get from place to place in England and he misses that in Union.
“I always have to ask for someone for a ride,” he said. “In America, to get to places you need to drive. In England, if you don’t have a car, you can catch a train, a bus, to anywhere. Here, we rely on teammates, and you don’t want to ask all the time.
Matheus Araujo-Tanure, a Communications major from Brazil, has an electric scooter he uses to get around. “I like to be independent and do the things I want to do on my time,” he said.
The players are housed at Lakeside Commons on Seigler Road and at 101 West Main. Moriarty said he enjoys the events that are held on Main Street like Downtown Open House. USC Union athletes walked together in the Christmas parade. Moriarty said when he first arrived in America, Coach Curlee picked him up at the airport and then they stopped at Quick Trip. “I had never seen anything like it,” he said. “It blew my mind. I love Quick Trip. I had never seen a gas station like that.”
He said he is surprised how well-attended high school sports like football and basketball are attended. “It is sad that soccer is not as appreciated as it is in Europe,” Steinweg said.
Their opinion on their interactions with Union girls is mixed. Some find them shy; some find them outgoing. “I see a lot of differences between the girls here and the girls in Brazil,” Tanure said. “The girls here are shyer, sometimes they don’t express themselves.”
Moriarty said he thinks American girls are friendlier than those in England. “In England, the girls are stuck up,” he said bringing a laugh from the others. “The girls here, they want to talk to you. That’s cool.” “The adults here are very friendly,” he said. “They care about us. We appreciate that. Sometimes in a big city they wouldn’t do that for us, and we want to say thank you for that.”
Curlee said the international players who have been added to the team bring added skill levels and drive. “All of these guys come from different backgrounds in the way they play in their countries,” Curlee said. “In the U.K., they are a little more physical whereas the German guys are a little more technical. The French guys are very technical as well. Evan (Vonner of France) brings a lot of height and physicality to the mid-field. (He is 6’ 4”). Niklas does a lot as far as defense goes, as my CDM (Center Defensive Mid). He is 6’4” as well. Matheus as the wingback is very technical. Brazilians are very technical and very fast. The players from the U.K., Maximus and Michael, play very physical soccer. That is what you want.”
Curlee said some of the other schools the Bantams play also have international students, but USC Union has the most. Next year more will be added. He said initially the players experienced some culture shock because Union is small compared to the larger areas from which they all come, but they have adapted. He said the other students have been very accepting.
“It’s a good bunch of young men,” he said. “When it comes to their grades, most of them are 3.8, 4.0. Their grades are immaculate. Every one of these boys across the board is on point.” Curlee said it is likely the whole group of international players will move on to play at a 4-year school when their time as Bantams is complete. “Five of our guys right now who were American sophomores are going to 4-year schools which is the best we have done in the past,” he said. “We have boys going to Coker, Southern Wesleyan and Lander. Niklas (Sports Management major) already has an offer from Brevard.”
The Bantams were sixth seed going into the NJCAA Region 10 Tournament this past fall. They won their first game (5-4) against third ranked USC Sumter on October 25th in double overtime.
Steinweg led scoring with two goals, while Ethan Phillips (Lugoff, SC), Winter and Vonner completed the win with one goal each. Bantam goalie, Ferri had 15 saves during the game.
At the end of the season, Steinweg was recognized as the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 10 Player of the Year. He led the entire Region in goals scored (16) and in points (35). His goals scored consisted with eight away, six at home, and two at neutral sites. He also received 1st Team All Region and is a team captain.
Jose Fernandez from South Carolina was awarded 2nd Team All Region. He will continue his college career at Coker University and will play soccer there next year. Moriarty was awarded 3rd Team All Region.
Some of USC Union’s international soccer players include (front row) Nico Steinweg, Matheus Tanure, Maximus Moriarty, Tim Gronenenberg, Coach Marc Curlee. (Back row) Michael Murphy, Evan Vonner, Niklas Winter, Andrea Ferri.