Giovani Sapien took a trip across the pond to Klagenfurt, Austria, last month to play soccer in the United World Games that were put on by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The 15 year-old incoming Lowry High School sophomore was a part of the 40 Nations and 800 teams that competed in 15 different sports.
Sapien was recommended for the team by an anonymous coach for his efforts in the past year and he made the trip with his mother and sister in all of their first trips to Europe.
“I didn’t know anyone else going to this event and I was the only Nevadan at the Games,” Sapien said. ‘We flew to New York and met a few of my teammates there. From there we flew to London and then to Germany and met the rest of the team there. The U.S. team had 14-18 year-olds from California, Florida, Alaska, and Washington.”
The U.S. team took a few games to get their bearings, but when they did they turned it on high.
“We started out slow as we were getting to know each other," Sapien said.. "But, we did well as we started bonding more. All of the players were good and our coach was super amazing. He was strict and knew exactly what we were going to do. Our first game was kind of a rude awakening because we played the home team Austria and they came out hard and we were not expecting that. Then we played Greece and lost pretty bad, and we started connecting pretty well against Switzerland but still lost. Then in the loser’s bracket we beat Italy in a penalty shoot out and ended up beating Germany the same way. We got revenge on Switzerland with a 5-0 win to take the loser’s bracket title.”
When asked about his first European experience Sapien said, “It was different but it was awesome at the same time. I loved Europe; it was a lot different than the U.S. actually. Germany was pretty fast paced, but Austria was very relaxing.”
Sapien played soccer and basketball at Lowry last year and plans to do the same this year, but with a slightly different perspective.
“This trip really opened my eyes and made me realize that I am a lot better at soccer than I am at basketball,” Sapien commented. “Soccer is a world-wide sport so there is more opportunity there.”
More information and all results can be found at unitedworldgames.com.