The millions of people watching the World Cup this summer can only dream of what it is like to be an international soccer player. Summer Sofer no longer has to.
The former Riverdale/Kingsbridge star spent the last 10 months away from home training as a member of the newly former Israeli Under-19 women’s soccer team. She will head back to Israel in July as the team continues to prepare to host and compete in the European Championships in the summer of 2015.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Sofer said. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”
She learned about the team from a family friend after her junior season with the Tigers and went to a tryout with Israeli national team Coach Guy Azuri. Once selected, Sofer said it wasn’t easy to leave her family and friends behind. She chose to follow her dream and Riverdale/Kingsbridge allowed her finish the final three classes for her high school diploma via online courses.
Both of Sofer’s parents are of Israeli decent, and this isn’t Sofer’s first time competing internationally. She helped lead her Rye Celtic travel team to the 15U division title at the Dana Cup Youth Tournament in Denmark in 2011. Azui saw more than just technical skill from the midfielder who scored 82 goals and dished out 23 assists in her three seasons with RKA.
“I saw the passion for the game and going to Israel,” Azuri said. “It shows a lot of courage to do something like this, to leave the family, to leave everything here, a comfortable life and come to Israel.”
There Sofer, who has not decided where she will play college soccer after the European championships, joined the 19 other players at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports, just south of Netanya on the northwest coast of Israel. She is just one of four players from the United States on the team. Their demanding schedules include nine practices per week. It was something that took getting used to for Sofer, but was ultimately beneficial.
“It was a lot of fun, but you don’t feel like it was really long because everyone there was like a really close family,” she said. “The team was amazing.”
Other Bronx soccer players are hoping to gain the same opportunity Sofer is enjoying. Former Bronx Science midfielder Alex Scheman and Riverdale goalie Jennifer Kronish were at a recent clinic, working alongside Sofer with Azuri. Kronish made the team last year, but couldn’t commit to leaving for Israel. She is hoping something can be arranged to allow her to go back and forth.
“It’s the chance to get on a national team, to not only be able to travel and spend time in Israel, but be in an environment where everyone is working so hard and getting better,” said Kronish, a rising senior.
All three young women look forward to the opportunity to help develop the program. Azuri said making the team is something that could be beneficial for players throughout their lives.
“Just being the base of something, creating something that could be really big, it would be really cool to be one of the baseline players.” Scheman said.
Sofer has already gotten a taste of what that is like. It’s a decision she didn’t hesitate to make and certainly doesn’t regret.
“I was happy to say yes,” Sofer Said. “It wasn’t a hard decision because I wanted to go.”