By David Falk
FC Tacoma 253 features an ambitious program that combines soccer and cultural exchange for players from Italy. Club CEO and President Giussepe Pezzano of Florence, Italy has built a network that invites players to come to America for the soccer, and along the way get culture, travel, and life experiences. FCT 253 joined the National Premier Soccer League this season and their roster reflects Pezzano’s opportunities. Two players that are in Washington state from Italy are attacking midfielders Enrico Antonioni and Gianmarco Peressini.
FC Tacoma recently brought in Antonioni, a 33-year old who has give the side a lift. “So far, my American experience has been very positive,” he says. “(We have scored) 8 goals in two games and 6 points. A completely new experience in a wonderful country and very different.” Enrico has a long list of Italian clubs he has played for. He might seem a strange candidate to come to America and take new chances, but that’s not how he sees it. “Off the pitch I’m getting to know the American culture, meet new people, make new friends. Everything is good,” he says.
Antonioni also sees a future here. “I think there are players with much potential and high margins to improve,” he tells us via a translation. “The difference between the American soccer and the Italian one is that here the rhythm of the play is not so high. Anyway, players are very willing to learn and grow up.” Tacoma could be more than just a summer stop. “I hope to play two more years and then become a coach. I would like to come here and help Giuseppe Pezzano and Filippo Milano (FCT 253 Head Coach) in building a big club, by making the young players grow and develop and by introducing Italian soccer in the US.”
Enrico has been re-energized on the pitch, and keeping his eyes open the rest of the day as well. “In Italy we are used to meeting at the table and having meals all together,” he describes. “Here, working people have no time to stop and to have meals together with their families. I think that Seattle is better compared with the other American cities. People pay more attention to what they eat, to the quality of the food and to the fresh products. People are very welcoming and available. They are a step ahead of Italy, culturally speaking, even if our culture was born almost 2000 years before the American one. Here things work properly, while it’s not the same in my country.”
Gianmarco Peressini is packing a lot of experiences into a short season. FC Tacoma takes the name of the southern Puget Sound city, though training and sightseeing often center around the city of Seattle. “This experience is making me grow up from all points of view,” he says. “I’m living a soccer reality that I didn’t know and I’m competing with different and well trained players. Also, since most of the games are outside Washington State, I travel a lot, so being able to visit different places. Together with my roommates and teammates we hang out at several clubs in the city, where we meet American girls and boys. Also, we spend our days around the city, visiting parks, museums, attending baseball and soccer games and so on.”
For Peressini, his dreams are American ones. “American are people very welcoming, open and available. I met every kind of people. As for the food, I like everything and I appreciate some American typical food. I would like to live a high level American experience, for example playing in the MLS. Why not?” When it comes to the sport, he naturally fits in though he does notice, “For sure, American soccer is very different from the Italian one. For example, practices happen in a different way. They are focused on the conditioning aspect of the soccer, and less on the tactical one.”
These two Italian players are lifting FCT 253 in their late run for an NPSL playoff spot out of the Northwest Conference. It will be Tacoma or Portland Spartans. Remaining matches will decide. As for the visitors, they would do it all again, they say. “When I’ll be back home I’ll tell my friends that if such an opportunity will happen to them, they won’t have to think about it,” Peressini says. “Just pack their bags and leave.”