Ocoee’s Camila Dishinger, 12, was part of three teams from Orlando’s XL Soccer World that went to Spain earlier this month to compete in the Donosti Cup.
If there was one big takeaway that Ocoee’s Camila Dishinger and her dad, John Dishinger, gleaned from their trip to Spain to compete in the Donosti Cup earlier this month, it may have been more social than soccer: It’s hard to avoid making friends when you spend 10 days on a bus with a group of people.
“Since you’re in a different country, halfway across the world, you automatically become friends,” Camila, 12, explained.
The Dishingers participated in the exciting trip through XL Soccer World in north Orange County, just west of Winter Park. The facility features indoor and outdoor soccer fields and hosts a variety of leagues, camps and events. Additionally, this is the second year that XL has taken local teams to participate in international competition.
Last summer, teams from XL traveled to England, while this summer, three teams of local kids (two boys teams and one girls team) made the trip to Spain. The program does not operate as, or in place of, club soccer teams, meaning youths from different clubs and different areas of Central Florida get the chance to be on a team together.
“The opportunity is there regardless of what club you play for,” Grace Bowman, a coach at XL and the coordinator for the trip, said. “The opportunity to compete at the international level — that’s pretty cool.”
“The bonding between a kid and parents when they travel overseas … we saw sights we would have never seen otherwise.”
— John Dishinger
The girls team on which Camila played included teammates from places such as Winter Park, Groveland and Seminole County. The two boys teams included athletes from as far away as Ormond Beach but also from local areas such as Windermere.
Given the nature of how the teams formed, each team had a handful of practices together and then they were off.
“It’s good to see the teams develop from the first practice to the last practice when we head out,” Bowman said. “‘Who’s going to step up and be the leader?’ … We do a lot of fun things just to get them talking in practice. It is a brand-new team and it adds a new dynamic to the trip.”
The teams from Central Florida arrived in Barcelona first, where they took in some sights and got to attend a charity match between former stars for Barcelona and Manchester United.
From there, they traveled to San Sebastian, where the Donosti Cup took place this year.
The opportunities for sightseeing were seemingly endless, and the Dishingers returned to report a very positive experience — including some architecture and parks that John Dishinger recalled as “mind-blowing.”
“I think it was amazing,” John said. “The bonding between a kid and parents when they travel overseas … we saw sights we would have never seen otherwise.”
Of course, there were also the games, too.
The girls team from XL won three games and lost three. After pool play, it advanced to the championship game of its bracket, ultimately placing second in its group. The experience of playing teams that were predominately from Spain was eye-opening — Camila noted the Spanish players relied heavily on finesse and did not play with the same physicality with which she and her teammates played.
There were also some memories to be made. In the second-to-last game of the tournament, Camila’s team had led 2-0. After one of her teammates was given a red card, though, the girls played down a player, and their opponents tied the game at 2-2. With a minute left, Camila took a shot from midfield that found the back of the net and her team won, 3-2.
Of course, more than wins and losses, the rising sixth-grader says she enjoyed making some new friends and recommends others take a similar trip if an opportunity presents itself.
“You get to see how other places in the world get to play,” Camila said. “It was a really fun trip and you meet all these new people.”
Although the country of destination has not yet been decided, XL is gauging interest for its 2018 tour. Interested families should call (407)-641-4791 or email Bowman at [email protected].
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].