SAN JOSE, Calif. – Over the summer, San José State University hosted national soccer teams from Chile, Jamaica and Argentina, including the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, at the South Campus football practice fields. San José State also hosted English Premiere League (EPL) power, Arsenal, where manager Arsene Wenger told Spartans men’s soccer head coach Simon Tobin, “Everything here is first class.”
“Some of the best players in the world practiced here, including Messi, Alexis Sanchez (Chile) and Jack Wilshere (Arsenal). It really gives a boost to your recruiting and just trying to get to be known as a real soccer institution. So it's a huge plus for our program,” said Tobin of his program’s experiences this summer.
The three national teams selected San José State as its practice site for the Copa America Centenario men’s soccer tournament, which pitted sixteen teams from North, Central and South America in an international regional championship tournament that is only rivaled worldwide in prestige by the European Championship.
Arsensal practiced at San José State as a preparation to play against the Major League Soccer All-Stars.
Groundwork for last February’s Super Bowl 50 helped set the stage as the NFL installed the playing surface at the South Campus football practice fields ahead of the Super Bowl when the NFC Champions Carolina Panthers practiced.
Reasons San José State Was Chosen
Tobin explained the reasons San José State was chosen as the practice site.
“Number one, your main field playing surface was helped by having the Super Bowl team here and they laid a fantastic surface. For world class soccer players, you need to have that surface. Then you have a secondary surface where you can do other work as most of the teams have two different groups working. So the setting itself and the grass area is brilliant.
“Then the security, as it’s close to the weight and training facilities, which they really loved. It’s secure being away from fans and its close and accessible to where they were staying.
“The third thing they liked is the cooperation and the attitude of all the administration here and the facilities people as we go beyond what some other places do. Its one of the best things about this place to help out these teams.”
Tobin’s Connection with Argentina FA Opens The Door
The opportunity to host these teams came about from Tobin’s personal connection with an Argentine Football (Soccer) Association member who reached out to the Spartans coach. The Argentina head coach, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, personally came out to the South Campus area to sign off on the facilities before Argentina and Chile worked with Copa America to secure San José State.
Arsenal followed suit, sending an exploratory group before agreeing to practice at the South Campus facilities.
The Summer Puts SJSU On The Map
Moving forward, Tobin feels the experience put the university on the map with the international teams and he hopes to further establish relationships as the program broke ground on building its own soccer facility.
“My goal is when we have our soccer facility ready, that we get it in a condition that these professional soccer teams will continue to use, because in the Bay Area, every summer there’s going to be teams coming in. It is something I’m going to try to promote more.”
“With Copa America for Argentina, the involvement was for both San José State men’s and women’s soccer. Some of Lauren Hansen’s (women’s soccer head coach) team came out to help out. If you look at all their pictures, just for them to be out there and seeing their heroes and looking at how hard these guys work, it aspires them to work to where they want to be.”
The Spartans head coach and English native summarized his summer as one of the best summers he has ever had having the opportunity to host and watch the training sessions of the three national teams and his favorite team, Arsenal.
“We got to see a few different coaching styles, and see some of the world’s best soccer players. You got the San José State men’s soccer team out there at certain practices watching and seeing the level and the commitment it takes to make a living and to get to the very top of the game. And just having the ability to host these teams is something that even in 30 years of coaching I’ve never been able to do before.”
Upcoming Season For SJSU Men’s Soccer
Now Tobin turns his attention to his program which returns seven starters from a team that made it to the WAC Tournament last year. The Spartans return two first-team WAC players in Rory Knibbs and Jonathan Colunga against a schedule that includes four teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament, including the defending national champion Stanford.
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