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Former Calexico soccer star shines for Navy team

July 22, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor
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When former Calexico High School soccer player Alfredo Rosales Lopez joined the U.S. Navy, he had no idea he'd be able to do the thing he loved most — playing soccer.

"It's awesome," said Rosales Lopez, a mid-fielder. "I've been playing soccer almost my whole life. I never thought I would get to play again."

Rosales Lopez played for two years on the Calexico varsity squad before enlisting after graduation in 1998. When he joined he figured he would get an education. He never thought he would get the chance to play soccer.

"I joined the Navy to study," he said via e-mail from the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf. "I never thought I'd be able to play soccer, but I think it's great."

When the chance came to play soccer in the Navy, Rosales Lopez seized it. He began his naval career on the Constellation's ship team. He was quickly named the team's captain and soon was asked to join the All-Navy team.

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"The coach of my ship's team selected me to try out for it," Rosales Lopez said of joining the All-Navy team.

Once he was selected Rosales Lopez went to a two-week training camp, where the team readied for international competition. The team has compiled a 16-2 record in international competition with Rosales Lopez on the squad. The only two losses they have had were to Australia and Malaysia. His ship's team has gone 28-5 during his tenure. They have finished as base champions the past two years. He has scored 10 goals during this time and holds the record for the most yellow cards in the Pacific Fleet.

"I really love the sport," he said. "When I play it, I play it to the bone."

In what has turned out to be quite a strange coincidence, Rosales Lopez has been reunited with two former Valley soccer players on the Constellation's team. Jorge Rivera from Southwest High in El Centro and Braulio Galvan from Central Union both play midfield with Rosales Lopez on the ship's team.

"They're doing pretty good," Rosales Lopez said of his fellow Valleyites. "We've got a pretty good team.

"We used to play against each other and it was cool when I saw him here," Rosales Lopez said of Rivera, who was recently selected to join him on the All-Navy team.

Rosales Lopez began playing soccer 15 years ago. When asked why, he responded it was the sport where he was the best fit.

"I started playing because I loved the sport," he said. "I tried everything and I guess soccer was best for me."

There is no question soccer requires more stamina than most sports. Thus, it is hard to imagine how a soccer player stays in shape when he spends most of his time on a ship out to sea. Rosales Lopez says there is a way.

"While we are in foreign ports we play against local first division teams," he said. "When we are out to sea we run and lift weights. We do workouts and stuff so we won't be wasted when we play."

Rosales Lopez holds the rank of third class petty officer and his job is to help maintain stock on the ship. While the chance to play soccer has been a great thing for Rosales Lopez, he will take more than just that away from the Navy when he leaves in December 2002.

"My plan in the Navy was to get an education," he said. "I'm now in the process of getting my law school acceptance to Thomas Jefferson School of Law (in San Diego). I'm starting law school in January 2003."

Still, getting to play the sport he loves and represent his country seems to be what Rosales Lopez has enjoyed most about his time in the Navy.

"Its been good to be able to play," he said. "I like representing the U.S. and getting to show other countries that we've got something here."

Sports Editor Chris Grant may be reached at 337-3434.

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