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ETBU Men’s Soccer Travels to Spain and Portugal through the Tiger Athletic Mission Experience

March 28, 2023

The East Texas Baptist University's Men's Soccer Team traveled to Spain and Portugal March 10-18 for the University's fifteenth Tiger Athletic Mission Experience (TAME) trip. The Tigers partnered with the International Sports Federation (ISF), served alongside the International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in Madrid, Spain, and worked directly with Cru in Lisbon, Portugal.

"As I look back on the week, it's easy to remember the photos, the world-famous futbol stadium, the food, and a chance to see and experience a new culture or style of life that the majority of our group, including myself, have never encountered," Head Men's Soccer Coach Chad Cox said. "However, we hope the other moments had the biggest impact on our players: the opportunities to join in on Sunday worship with other believers in another language and meet college students and share about their relationships with the Lord."

After an overnight flight, the team arrived in Madrid on Saturday afternoon, where they received a short orientation with the IMB missionaries before settling in for the night. Sunday morning, the team split into two groups for worship, with one attending Nueva Esperanza Church and the second going to Comunidad Moncloa, both church plants located in Madrid. At Esperanza Church, the Tigers enjoyed worship led by ETBU alum Lori Seagraves ('92). In addition, the team was able to tour the facilities of the Real Madrid soccer club as part of the day’s events.

"We visited the most historical soccer stadium in history, the Santiago Bernabéu, which is the stadium Real Madrid calls home," ETBU sophomore business administration major Anthony Lozada said. "We toured the facility and had the opportunity to walk around a stadium with great history."

The Tigers saw their first action on the pitch on Monday, competing with a team of semi-professional players from the surrounding area of Madrid. ETBU was quick from the start, scoring two goals in the opening 10 minutes of action, and the offense continued for an 8-4 victory by the Tigers.

Postgame, the Tigers spent time in fellowship with their opponents, sharing lunch and learning more about them as young, semi-professional players in Spain.

The team then traveled to Civitas Metropolitan, the home stadium of Atlético de Madrid, for a facilities tour that included the locker room, team benches on the field, press room, suites, and trophy room. Finally, the Tigers concluded the evening walking around Sol, the very center of Madrid, Spain, taking in the historical sites of the district and praying over individuals, bookstores, and markets.

The first full day in Lisbon, Portugal, came on Wednesday, March 15, beginning with a hike to the top of a hill that overlooked much of the city. The team then traveled via the metro to the downtown area and walked the streets, sightseeing and learning more about the city's history. 

Later the Tigers visited Jorge Pena Academy, founded by former boxer Jorge Pena who lost his eyesight and dreamed of opening a place for kids to get off the streets. After touring the facility, the student-athletes and academy students rode a bus to Clube Oriental De Lisboa, a Division III professional team where professional soccer began within Portugal in 1946. The academy students and Tigers split into two teams and played a game of soccer. The time allowed the Tigers to interact with the children and share why they were in Portugal and about college life in the United States.

"Quite possibly the most fun day and best memories came when our team had the opportunity to connect with a group of underprivileged youth," Cox explained. "It's truly amazing what a little time and attention meant to those young people. To watch them sing, chant, take selfies, and run alongside our bus as we departed is what it's all about."

After returning the children to the Academy, ETBU's travel party watched the Real Madrid and Liverpool Champions League match while enjoying dinner at Portuguese professional soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo's restaurant.

On Friday, the Tigers traveled to Scavem, Portugal, to compete against a professional division, level three club consisting of 23 to 27-year-old players.

"For us, it was all about the experience of playing against professionals," ETBU freshman business administration major Brenden Gajewski shared. "This moment for us as a team was a vital time for us to come together, learn, and improve. What we did today will help us succeed back in the States."

The two teams joined for lunch postgame at a local restaurant. After lunch, they traveled to the coast of Lisbon to spend time with local IMB missionary Bethany Sharp from Minden, Louisiana.

The Tigers assisted with hanging flyers and interacting with community members at the local park to spread awareness of the church's upcoming events.

"We distributed flyers and information for new church plants about small groups, Father's Day, and Easter celebrations. If only a few join the next Church service or meet with our IMB contacts and local missionaries, it was well worth the time spent," Coach Cox said.

The Tigers ended the day in downtown Lisbon to visit a few tourist attractions before returning to the hotel for an early morning departure back to Texas.

East Texas Baptist continually partners with ISF for many TAME trips due to the alignment in mission and values between the two organizations. ISF exists to bring the life, hope, and love of Jesus to the world through the exciting and vibrant world of sport. TAME was created to allow ETBU Tiger student-athletes to use their God-given talents and abilities to share their faith with people all across the globe as they strive to transform the world for Christ. Since 2016, ETBU Athletics has sponsored trips to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Serbia, Israel, Jamaica, Slovakia, France, Japan, Greece, Scotland, and Australia.