by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
To say that Brazilians Hiago Gaspar and Ricardo Angelo had a major effect on Kansas City Kansas Community College would be an understatement – and vice versa.
Gaspar led the Jayhawk Conference with a Blue Devil record 17 goals and was second in assists with 11 and was named to both the All-Jayhawk Conference and All-Region first teams.
A defender, Angelo was also a first team All-Jayhawk pick and second team All-Region selection.
Together, they along with five other all-conference honorees helped lead KCKCC to a 10-4 record and second place in the Jayhawk.
Just as impressive has been their success in ESOL classes and particularly learning the English language. Neither spoke a word of English when they arrived this summer.
“We just shook our heads,” Angelo said.
“They’ve done well in the classroom and hopefully next semester they’ll be taking regular college classes,” Ruben Rodriguez, KCKCC head soccer coach, said.
The two also take part in the BOSS after school program in which they work with elementary students not only in learning soccer skills but on teaching life skills.
Both players are from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they started playing soccer at early ages.
“Last year, we had two players from Brazil who were so successful academically and on the playing field and were also impressed with our college facilities, academics, athletics and coaching staff and were helpful in recruiting more students,” Rodriguez said. “We met Hiago and Ricardo on Skype and between our communication on Skype and watching them playing on video we thought they’d be a pretty good fit for KCKCC.”
Their arrival at KCKCC tops their list of highlights.
“The first day, everything was new for me, the language, practices, the college, the people,” Gaspar said.
“People were nice,” Angelo said. “And mainly the weather. It was hot. So much humidity.”
Both players started every game this fall.
“The competition is about the same as Brazil but the game is more physical here and we play more games,” Ricardo said.
“Soccer is more technical in Brazil,” KCKCC assistant coach Burke Slusher said.
“Hiago is pretty much a natural talent, a natural goal scorer,” Rodriguez said. “He’s usually in the right place a lot and you can’t teach that.”
“He also has great speed, probably in the 4.4 range,” Slusher added.
“Ricardo is very technical, is very good on and off the ball and has a high soccer IQ,” Rodriguez said.
“Very calm under pressure, good in the air and reads the game very well,” Slusher agreed.
Their talents have not gone unnoticed.
“I’ve already been contacted by some Division I schools and all the local NAIA schools,” Rodriguez said. “Their desire is to play at the next level, either in Division I or professionally. This has been our best year so far and we expect better next year. We have a bright future.”
Gaspar and Angelo plan to be a part of that future.
“We are so thankful for the opportunities we have here,” Gaspar said. “Everyone has been so helpful, all the teachers, the trainers and especially our coaches.”
Joining Gaspar and Angelo on the All-Jayhawk first team was midfielder Guilherme Grave of Sao Paulo; while second team selections included sophomore forward Thiago Elias, also of Sao Paulo; sophomore midfielders Giovanni Calderon of Harmon and Tanner Helms of Ashland, Mo.; and sophomore defender Jake Salmons, also of Ashland, Mo.