All the way from Colombia to Simpson for soccer

All the way from Colombia to Simpson for soccer

by Vania G. Quiroz

Juan Navas stepped onto the soccer field wearing his yellow-black cleats to play for a spot in his final game of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.

This distinctive pair of shoes is not the only thing that makes Navas unique part of the Storm.

Born in Medellin, Colombia, the senior is one of the captains of Simpson’s soccer team and Head Coach of the Indianola High School soccer team. His life hasn’t been easy, but it has encouraged him to stand out from most people. Although living by himself is not rare in America, his case is unique because his parents live in Colombia, thousands of miles away from here.

“Life is different here (in the United States),” Navas said. “People are less open (than in Colombia). They barely know or talk to their neighbors. I really miss the food, the interaction among people and all the traditions and festivities that we (Colombians) celebrate.”

Navas bought his unusual cleats last summer to resume playing soccer after sitting out two seasons with Simpson College’s team.

He tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in summer 2000 while playing soccer in the Iowa Games. However, he had to wait a whole year to go back to Bogota, Colombia to have surgery.

Neither Navas’ insurance company nor his father’s covered the cost because the accident had occurred in the transition of going from his father’s insurance policy to his own.

“Those two years were very hard because I couldn’t play soccer as much as I wanted,” Navas said. “It frustrated me, so I tried to keep myself occupied doing other things instead of just laying down in the couch wondering ‘why me?'”

Staying away from things and people he loves is not unusual for Navas.

Since he was a child, Navas had to pack his belongings, say goodbye to his friends and move with his family many times somewhere else in the continent.

“Medellin, Colombia, is the city where I’ve stayed the longest time (6 years), and those years were the first years of my life,” Navas said, “I’d love settling down.”

He may soon get a chance to do just that.

He’s still dating his high school sweetheart, Andrea Thacher, a student at Iowa State University, and they plan to get married next May.

Now he works in the customer service department of Indianola Wells Fargo, where his first language, Spanish, has been an excellent resource for his position.

Navas also works doing something he had always dreamed about – coaching soccer.

He was assistant coach of the Indianola High School soccer team for one year, but since last season he had been head coach.

“I recommended him both times because he’s dedicated to achieve his goals, and I thought those players could learn a lot from him,” said Simpson Head Soccer Coach Aziz Haffar who persuaded Navas to come to Simpson.

Navas was playing in Ames High School because his father, Alejandro, was pursuing his doctorate in plant reading at Iowa State University. As Haffar also coaches the Valley High School soccer team in the same conference, he saw in Navas a potential player for Simpson.

Navas’ assistant for his team will be another Simpson soccer player, junior Brady Spangenberg.

“We worked together last year, so we know the strengths and weaknesses we have to work on.” Spangenberg said. “We love soccer, and teaching is something the two of us want to keep doing in the future. I think this is a good combination of both.”

At the Iowa Conference tournament, the semifinal game between Simpson and Luther went to a shootout because it remained tied 0-0 after two overtimes of 10 minutes each. Luther defeated Simpson 4-2 taking away from Navas the opportunity to play in the tournament final.

“Sometimes you will accomplish your goals, sometimes you won’t,” Navas said as he was packing his yellow-black soccer shoes. “But you will never know if you don’t try.”