by Liz Morales
COLUMBUS — Columbus is no stranger to diversity.
Central Community College head men's soccer coach Dave Silva added to that mix by bringing in more international players this year.
"Normally, we only have about two or three players from different countries play for us," Silva said. "But this year we wanted to change the culture of the team. This adds more competition for the team and it also gives our players and Columbus a chance to learn from each other."
The team welcomed 22 players from different countries to campus this year.
For many of them, the cultural differences are a nice reprieve from their everyday lives back home.
"Columbus is definitely a lot smaller than where I've been," said Peyton Timmermeyer.
The son of an Air Force member stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany, has seen a lot of the world.
"I was born in Japan and we moved around a lot through my life," he explained.
The close-knit community was something many of the team members immediately recognized, along with something else that's not unfamiliar to native Nebraskans.
"We all got here four months ago in August," said Luiz Olivera. "It was humid and flat around that time. And there is so much corn everywhere."
Olivera, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, comes from a large city with nearly 1.5 million residents. The spaciousness Nebraska offers serves as a reminder of how different life is back home.
Pablo Cubillo of Madrid, Spain, said this change of pace was welcome.
"Here, if you want to get somewhere you just hop in a car and go," Cubillo said. "It can take a while, but it's not like back home. In Madrid, you get on the underground (train) and in a few minutes you're where you want to go. I also noticed that the roads here are just straight lines, which is strange. But this place is quiet and very relaxing. I like that."
Another obvious difference is the food.
"I really don't like how all the food is very unhealthy here," said Alex Sanches. "At home we eat a lot of vegetables, fish and steak. It's all very fresh and healthy. I just don't like the fried foods and oily taste much of the food here has."
Sanches has easy access to fish and other healthy treats in his home of Praia, Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa.
Most of the soccer team's international players spent Thanksgiving in their Columbus homes on campus, but not Riolan Mello of Salvador, Brazil.
"Some of my friends and I went to Omaha and we ate Chipotle," Mello said. "No big Thanksgiving meal, no turkey, just Chipotle. Then we went shopping for Black Friday deals. It was a lot cheaper than Brazil even without Black Friday."
Another member of the team was able to spend Thanksgiving with family in town. Thomas Robinson has family in Columbus and had the opportunity to enjoy the American holiday away from his Kaiserslautern, Germany, home. Robinson is the son of an Army soldier who is stationed at the same base as Timmermeyer's father.
While most of the Raiders stayed in Columbus over Thanksgiving, the whole team will be able to spend time with their families for Christmas. Of course, that holiday is celebrated much differently in other lands.
"In Brazil, we all get together on the 24th and have dinner with our whole family," Mello said. "Then, of course, we open presents the next day."
This tradition is similar to Cape Verde, Sanches said.
While Santa and his giving spirit play a part in Christmas here, Spain has its own focus for the holiday season.
"We celebrate the Reyes Magos, which is much more important than Santa day," Cubillo said.
Another holiday celebrated around Christmastime is Boxing Day. Marcus Horwood of Chesham, England, said that day has evolved over time.
"It's really just a day after Christmas to spend more time with your family," Horwood said. "It used to be a bank holiday where every business was closed for family time. Now it's gotten to where more businesses are open on the day so people can get in and shop with better deals than before. It's a little bit like Black Friday."
One thing the teammates can agree on is the welcoming attitude they've experienced in Columbus.
"We have been to several junior schools, or elementary schools, to speak with the students about who we are and where we come from and also what the team is all about," Horwood said. "It seemed the teachers had even more questions than the students did. They all definitely noticed our accents right off the bat. But the students and other places here have accepted us quite well."
Picture: Members of the Central Community College men's soccer team call many countries around the world home. They have found some clear differences between Nebraska and their home countries. Pictured, from left, are Alex Sanches of Cape Verde, Marcus Horwood of England, Thomas Robinson of Germany, Luiz Olivera of Brazil, Pablo Cubillo of Spain, Riolan Mello of Brazil and Peyton Timmermeyer of Germany.
Liz Morales, The Columbus Telegram