The Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team is as culturally diverse as some professional soccer teams.
There are six Brazilain, two English, one Canadian and one Japanese player on the team’s 30-man roster.
Danillo Santos and his older brother Diego Santos came to ENMU from Natal, Brazil, for an education and to play soccer.
Danillo said in Brazil after a player reaches the age of 17 or 18 years old, they can become a professional soccer player or go to college. He said the universities there are not that good.
“There are very few opportunities to study back in Brazil and get a good job,” Danillo said. “Here, there is an opportunity to play soccer, study and get a degree.”
A business administration major, Danillo said being part of the program has added structure to his life with practice and classes.
Senior forward Emerson Rodrigues, the No. 17-ranked Greyhounds’ leading scorer, is also Natal, Brazil. He transferred from Oklahoma Baptist University after his freshman season.
“I spent a year at Oklahoma and I had a friend here at Eastern who was an assistant (Marcos Silva, who is no longer with program),” Rodrigues said. “I had some problems at Oklahoma. Playing soccer here is much better because it is faster and we move the ball around. At OBU, they had a lot of Brazilians on the team and it wasn’t good for the team.”
Freshman midfielder Andy Wilkinson of Lewes, England, said he came to Portales because coach Harold Munoz’ team plays the same style soccer they play back home and there’s not many distractions.
“His take on soccer is how we play back in England and I knew it would suit me straight away,” said Wilkinson, who has two-game-winning goals for the Hounds (7-1). “Of course, coming from Lewes ,which is outside of London, it is kind of hectic because everyone is always in a rush there and moving at hundred miles an hour. I wanted to go to a place where I could relax and feel comfortable and out here it is completely different compared to the English countryside.”
Munoz said recruiting players from outside the U.S. is a way to bring more skilled recruits to ENMU.
“It’s a lot tougher to get top recruits in the U.S. to come to Portales,” Munoz said. “It is tougher to recruit because I’m competing against West Texas and Midwestern. We’re not just recruiting players from other countries, but we want to try and recruit the best local talent. Most of our players come from Texas and some from New Mexico.”
Munoz used his coaching connections to land freshman midfielder Eishu Kanemitsu and freshmen defender Jehmaine Brooks, both starters.
Kanemitsu said he had heard about the Eastern from a friend and he also knows Brooks when they played together in Canada.
“I came to visit back in May to watch and see how they played soccer and I really liked it,” Kanemitsu said. “I like how they played soccer here. It’s much better than the other schools I visited. Those other schools were D-1 schools and the players were huge.”