Senior forward Roberto Garrido finished the season with 25 goals and led the NAIA in that category. Garrido is a native of Valencia, Spain.
Milligan (6-11) lost in the first-round of the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament to Bryan College and Garrido has since been passed, but he still leads the NAIA in goals per game (1.47). He also led the NAIA this season in total points and shot on goal per game at multiple points this season.
“It’s been an honor to represent Milligan as a student and a player,” Garrido said. “When I first came here, I had some issues with the language barriers. Once I overcame that, they just made it feel like home. That’s really important when you are comfortable with the team and your teammates.
“It was not the end we wanted, obviously. With all the individual honors, I think that really shows how hard the team works and a reflection of much we work regardless of the circumstances.”
Valencia is in southern Spain and the climate is naturally warm all the time being in close proximity to the equator. The transition from traditionally speaking Spanish to English can be tough, but thanks to some other language classes in his education curriculum, Garrido was able to make a quicker change.
“When I was younger, my mom made me take a couple of other languages other than Spanish,” he said. “I’ve been studying English since I was seven years old. Before I came here, I had a basic level of English.
“One of the hardest things I had to get used to was the meal times. In Spain, we didn’t have lunch until 1 or 2 in the afternoon and we had dinner around 9 in the evening. Here, I had to eat dinner before practice sometimes and that was hard at first, but Milligan provided me with everything that I needed and I am thankful for that.”
Soccer is also different across the pond than it is in the United States. Countries like Spain who have a successful résumé in the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics feel a great sense of national pride when it comes to soccer.
Club teams like Real Madrid or Barçelona have huge parties or tailgates outside of the stadiums before the game, much like the pregame festivities seen at college football games in the United States.
“The season here only lasts one semester. Back home, we start in August or September and go all the way until May and play one game a week,” he said. “Here, we play two games a week. The mindsets are different, too. It was a huge adjustment, but the team is now a mix of internationals and Americans.
“The bottom line is that we all love soccer and we’re working toward the same goal.”
Garrido’s biggest game came in a road game against Kentucky Christian when he scored five goals and helped the team to a 10-1 win.
He had four hat tricks on the season and six multi-goal games.
“I tried not to look at the stats that much this season,” he said. “I talked a lot with my dad and he always tells me that you can do it better. I kept working hard and tried to help the team as much as I could.”
Garrido is a business major with a concentration in marketing. He plans to graduate in May.
“Milligan has been very different with the education. It’s such a small place and everybody knows everybody,” he said. “Professors here are involved in everything. They want to know how you’re doing on the field as well as in the classroom. In Spain, they give you what you need and all you have to do is pass an exam. I’ve taken a lot from my experience here that I will use back home. I think the education is better here and we can take a lot of things from this country back home.”