Four Bedford Soccer Players Experience Portugal Through Soccer

A trip to a pro soccer game was first on the agenda. The team got a chance to cheer for Benfica, Coach Mario’s childhood team, and new fans were born. They also got a chance to tour the Stadium including a tour of the pro museum, a chance to touch the sacred grass, hang in the press room and the visiting team locker room, then walk out through the tunnel and onto the field, just like the professional players do.


It was the trip of a lifetime for four Bedford Soccer players who play for Soccer Club’s East Elite Blue Team, the FC Stars.

Carter Rauch, Christian Hill, Eshan Pandey, all 8th graders at JGMS and Ansh Aggarwal, a 9th grader at BHS departed Boston on Friday, February 14, and began their 9-day journey to Lisbon, Portugal.

The idea was to experience European soccer and get a feel for life as an elite soccer player. The Bedford team is coached by Mario Almeida, a native of Portugal, who has always dreamed of taking an American team to his home country. His hope for the players was to experience a different culture and learn a few things along the way.

The team’s first soccer game was held in the Algarve region against Lusitano, Vila Rela, with exceptional camaraderie among the team members.


The boys played extremely well and almost won their first game, but it ended in a 1-1 tie. What was most memorable, was the camaraderie between the teams and fans with a few shouts of ‘next time in America’ by the local fans.

It was on to San Diego Spain, which was just minutes from the beautiful city of Monte Gordo where the players and families stayed. The team faced much tougher competition against Grupo Deportivo; the boys played hard and never gave up, but found themselves coming up short in the end.

It was a great opportunity to see how soccer is played there compared to here in the states. What a lot of players noticed was just how great the grass was! The ball moves much smoother and allows for faster play.

The final game was against one of the best soccer academies in the world! It is run by the Sporting Pro Soccer Club. The boys, although clearly outmatched, learned a lot about the level of soccer in Portugal. Children here devote their lives to learning soccer from a young age in hopes of playing in the pros someday. Their intensity and dedication to soccer were clearly on display!

Coach Mario included numerous opportunities for team-building activities between games in order to bring the team together — bonding off the field translates to better team play on the field.


Bedford team members at Vilamoura, Portugal – Click image to see it at full-size

But the other goal of the trip was to experience a different culture.

There was lots of time off in order to appreciate the beauty of the coast of Portugal and its charming towns with stone tiled streets and inviting shops and restaurants. A few friends were met along the way, as more than once the entire group of players and family members took over an entire restaurant with the owners hoping we would make a return visit soon!

The hospitality of the Portuguese was truly inspiring.

Obrigada Portugal!

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