MISSOULA — Earlier in May a group of University of Montana women’s soccer players went to Peru as part of a U.S. State Department exchange program hosted by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center. The program focused on the two countries bonding and understanding each other’s cultures through the game of soccer.
“It’s such a great opportunity to meet other people around the world and connect through soccer,” said Montana midfielder Zoe Transtrum.
On Tuesday afternoon, out at Fort Missoula, 20 players and coaches from Peru came to learn from some of the best soccer players in the state as the UM women’s soccer team hosted the second of the two-part exchange program.
Transtrum was a part of the first trip to Peru but got to return the favor Tuesday by leading most of the drills.
“There’s a lot of great players to show them what it’s like to play at a higher level here. And it’s great to make more relationships and interactions. I never really thought I could be someone that teaches other people something, but now that I am old enough to do that, it’s the most humbling experience to be able to share your experience with other people and be able to pass that on,” said Transtrum.
Although many of the players were women, one of the biggest cultural differences is that Peru doesn’t have many established opportunities for women to play soccer at the youth level like here in America.
Camila Zapata, one of the Peruvian players, said she could tell the difference in the way the players touched the ball and that it gave her hope for the future.
“Super special touch in her feet, that tells me they’ve been playing since they were kids. That doesn’t happen in Peru because the men there, everyone says that the women can’t play. So, when I saw the girls, I feel that the world and Peru can change,” said Zapata.
And when it comes down to it, Susan Crystal from the U.S. State Department said that’s really what the program is all about.
“Even if some of the Peruvians don’t speak English, even if some of the people from Montana don’t speak Spanish, through sports, in this case, soccer/football they have the opportunity to share ideas, to share new techniques and new ideas on how to move the sport forward,” said Crystal.