LOUISVILLE — For 20 years the Louisville-based Trebol Soccer Club has provided opportunities for players in the region to hone their skills both on the pitch and learn life-skills as well.
Perhaps the biggest spokesman for Trebol is Temo Gonzalez, who was on the clubs first team when Pancho Hansen founded it in 1996 and is now imparting his knowledge of the game he has picked up over his travels as girls technical director.
"When I left, my team had 10 guys, we often played a few men down, and there wasn't much competition among the other clubs in the area," said Gonzales, who was a standout back in his day at Centaurus. "That has all changed now."
It's been a long, strange trip for Gonzales, whose story has a made-for-TV movie feel to it.
He grew up playing with his friends in a dirt parking lot in a nearby trailer park. There weren't too many other options that his family could afford, so in addition to the soccer he also found comfort in both boxing and wrestling.
Without the financial backing to play anything or anywhere else, Gonzalez was given an opportunity by Hanson at Trebol. He was confident in his skills already and once he joined the club, they advanced to a whole different level.
His game took off.
"I really thought soccer was a way to escape so I focused and trained," he said. "No partying, just soccer."
Gonzalez, with a dream of playing college soccer somewhere, was limited with less than impressive grades and not yet a full grasp on the English language. But he still tried to walk on at UCLA.
It didn't work out in Westwood, so he took the junior college route to Nebraska and then to Tennessee before eventually landing at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. With the Falcons, he was part of a team that made it all the way to Division II Final Four.
After college, he realized Alabama wasn't really the place to settle down with his newborn son and really wanted to get back home and be part of something special. He moved back into the very house we was raised in as a kid and reconnected with his old mentor Hansen at Trebol.
"I'm back with the club and people who opened their hearts to me and we're competitive without losing with our legacy and community ties," Gonzalez said. "I continue to learn and grow from the leadership and I can confidently say that I've given back and do make a difference."
It's not all about the soccer at Trebol either. The have taken their kids on goodwill missions around the globe, including a recent trip to Japan. Trebol also has a program called Amigos that goes into the local elementary schools with coaches during recess and trains hundreds of K-5th graders the game and how to play it with sportsmanship.