HERMISTON — Nathan Rice rubbed his goalkeeping gloves together and surveyed the soccer field before him. At forward, he saw a native of the Czech Republic. A Brazilian patrolled the midfield. One of his defenders was from Indonesia.

Rice, a 17-year-old early grad from Hermiston who’s heading to Oregon Institute of Technology in the fall, certainly seemed the outlier.

“It’s crazy. Every now and then they’re not even speaking the same language,” Rice said. “They’re just out there shouting, hoping somebody hears them. It’s definitely fun and a lot different than high school ball.”

Rice’s teammates for the match on Friday, the Ambassadors in Sport, are in Hermiston this week hosting a youth soccer camp in conjunction with the New Hope Community Church. The traveling group is part of an international organization that tours the world, teaching soccer and preaching religious values.

The organization has pinpointed Hermiston on its schedule in recent years, thanks in part to Rice’s family who helped get a camp started in town when they moved to the east side from Clatskanie. But the Ambassadors take a break each year for a friendly game against the locals. On Friday at Butte Park, they scrimmaged with a Hermiston city league team.

Jose Zuniga of Hermiston saw the game as a   chance to play against the medley of cultures as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“That’s how I took it. To meet other players, look at them and how they play, it’s a good experience,” Zuniga said. “They definitely have their experience in soccer, too. Some of them are really good.”

The Ambassadors team also had representatives from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and a pair of players from the United States.

For Valmire Miranda, working for the Ambassadors provides the perfect marriage between his two passions: soccer and religion. Miranda played professionally in his native Brazil before his life changed course. His playing days truncated, he joined a ministry. Then six years ago, he joined the group after hearing about it from a friend.

Last year, he took over as program director for Brazil.

“It’s everything I’ve always wanted,” he said. “I like to play soccer and I love to share about Jesus because Jesus changed my life. This is my perfect job.”

The Ambassadors outlasted the locals 4-3 with a goal in the final five minutes of the game, but neither side reveled in victory nor defeat. The players met at midfield for handshakes and hugs, just happy to have played the game.

The soccer camp closes out its final day this morning at Sandstone Middle School, teaching technical soccer tactics and individual skill competitions in a Christian environment.


Contact AJ Mazzolini at ajmazzolini@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0839.



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