Garcia Graces the Pitch with Modesty

<strong>SCOTT ROEDER |</strong> Staff Photographer<br>Senior Irving Garcia weaves his way through the Mustang defense. He leads the team with seven goals.

SCOTT ROEDER | Staff Photographer
Senior Irving Garcia weaves his way through the Mustang defense. He leads the team with seven goals.

Irving Garcia has a certain demeanor to him. He’s confident, but humble. Two weeks ago, Garcia scored three goals, two game-winners, plus an assist to earn National Player of the Week honors from TopDrawerSoccer.com. But to the 5’5” midfielder/forward, that’s no big deal. To Garcia, it’s not about him. Rather, it’s about his team: UCI men’s soccer.

Born in Ventura, California, but raised in San Luis, Arizona, Garcia spent his first two years of college at Yavapai College. Now a senior at UCI, he studies social science, but ultimately wants to keep soccer as a first choice for a career.

“[When I got to UCI], I was really scared at first because it’s Division 1,” Garcia said about the switch from Yavapai to UCI. “It’s different. Players are more physical, faster, stronger. I was scared of the new level I was going to encounter but all my coaches and teammates treated me pretty well, and everything just went fine.”

Preferring not to accredit himself for the smooth transition, Garcia is modest. However, on the field, it’s a different story. Garcia makes it a point to try and score goals at every game, and also to assist his teammates. He’s a team player, but even to that, he won’t take credit for.

“That’s everyone on the team,” Garcia said. “We play for each other.”

To Garcia, soccer is simple; it’s about the team and the win. This season, he already has seven goals and six assists for 20 points. The goal total already matches last season when Garcia was named to the All-Big West first team. Confronted with questions about his success at soccer, he shrugs it off.

“Honestly for me, I don’t think personal awards are that big of a deal,” Garcia said. “I’m just a team player. I just want to win.”

In this year’s season, and last years, UCI men’s soccer team has been doing just that. During his first season with UCI, the team went to the NCAA tournament, a historic run for the men’s soccer team. They won the Big West Conference and Tournament. This season, standing at 22nd in the nation, the ’Eaters are major competitors.

Despite it all, Garcia is still the same kid from San Luis. His favorite meal is still a soup his mom makes; he’s still in touch with his roots.

“I think every person, every Hispanic, should be a part of [their roots], and never forget where they came from,” Garcia said.

What makes him different, though, is his passion. Garcia loves soccer, and it’s that love and passion that has fueled him here today.

“If it wasn’t for soccer, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t get a scholarship, I wouldn’t be here in California, so [soccer has] been a part of my life,” Garcia said.

Asked how long he’s been playing soccer, he laughed, replying with, “I wasn’t even born yet but I was already playing soccer.” Garcia says jokingly, but there’s truth to his words. Behind the smile, it’s very apparent that he’s itching to get back to practice.

Garcia approaches life differently than most people. Life gives him the most when in contact with the soccer ball. Every game gives more definition to his life, and so he plays every game like his last.

“I dedicate each game to my parents, try to make the most of it, try to score every game, try to make good passes, assist and just have fun,” Garcia said. “Just forget about everything else and have fun.”

When asked what he likes to do aside from soccer, he grumbles, complaining that it was too hard of a question. After a few minutes, he agreed upon one other hobby, playing video games, specifically FIFA ‘10, a videogame dedicated to virtual soccer playing. There was no beating Garcia: soccer is his life.

Garcia is smart, and it shows. Majoring in social sciences gave him the opportunity to take classes like Transnational Gangs with Professor Valdez, which became his favorite because of how it educated him about social problems, here in the U.S. and abroad as well.

“My parents are from Guatemala, so I just wanted to learn about the culture over there, especially the gangs. I have family over there struggling with the gangs, so it’s really good to know and later on, try to do something to help, you know?” Garcia said.

Talking about his family, and then soccer, Garcia’s passion seems multifaceted. His love for his family and his passion with soccer trickles into every other aspect of his life. With his shoulder length hair and a fixed smile, he resembles not so much an average college student, but rather a soccer legend like Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi. Perhaps that’s where Irving Garcia is heading.

“I just want [New U readers] to come to the game. Stop reading the article, and just come to the game. Try to pack the stadium. We’ll make it interesting for them.”

So, put down the paper, and come out to the UCI men’s soccer team’s games, per Garcia’s request. The next home game is this coming Saturday, the 31st, against UC Santa Barbara. Garciai will undoubtedly try to shine against the first place Gauchos, who are ranked in the top 10 nationally.