Soccer is the biggest global sport and according to FIFA figures one billion viewers tuned in to watch the 2014 World Cup. Fans in Kansas City love soccer and take pride in being labeled the “Soccer Capital of America”. Right in the heart of KCK at Soccer Nation you can find a big soccer fan, Luis Padilla, who has made this city his home for the past 10 years, and is our first GSI Sports Soccer Spotlight.
Padilla is a 27 year old Guadalajara, Mexico native that came to Kansas City in 2007 to pursue not only his education but, his soccer dream. While playing soccer in Mexico, he befriended a Kansas City native, Francisco Murguia, who gave him the information he needed to contact Todd Logan the Maple Woods Community College coach. It wasn’t long after that Padilla found himself with a scholarship and on the Maple Woods Men’s Soccer roster. The Murguia family provided a home and family atmosphere for him in Kansas City but, there was one small hurdle for Padilla to overcome and that was he needed to learn English.
“Learning to speak English was one of the biggest challenges I have ever had”, said Padilla.
With the help of ESL classes and immersing himself in the culture. Now not only can Padilla speak English and Spanish, he has a high level of comprehension in Portuguese as well. Following two successful years at Maple Woods, Padilla went on complete his education and college soccer career at Mid America Nazarene College in Olathe.
Although coming to the US meant leaving his parents and three siblings, it was a risk he was willing to take.
“I wanted to come to the United States because I knew it would provide opportunities to make connections and relationships” said Padilla. “I believe you’ll always find your way.”
Soccer has provided numerous connections for him and one of the biggest ones was meeting Raul Villegas the owner of Soccer Nation. Villegas hired him to work Saturdays and he had a few other small soccer jobs as well.
“I met him through playing in his El Padrino soccer league at the Polo fields. Raul became known as El Padrino, which means Godfather in Spanish, because he takes care of lots of kids in the community,” said Padilla.
In 2014 Padilla took one small detour to Brazil to watch the World Cup. After the World Cup was complete, he stayed in Brazil for six months until he had five dollars left in his pocket.
“Travel opens your mind because sometimes we don’t see the big picture. I knew it was time to get back and when I returned I went to work full time at Soccer Nation,” he said.
Not only is Padilla the Director of Soccer Nation, he also coaches a 2005 boys team.
The biggest thing soccer has done for him is to provide routine, discipline and organization and he hopes that soccer will teach the same thing to the kids in the Latino community. Not only is soccer a sport and a job for Padilla, when you talk to him you can tell that working with kids at Soccer Nation is his passion.
“No matter where you live or where you are from, everyone speaks soccer”, said Padilla. “I want to help give back like the family did for me when I came here.”
From the looks of things, that’s exactly what he is doing!