From the south of France to ELAC
By Juan Calvillo
East Los Angeles College soccer gained a defender that has a “joie pour le futbol”, a joy for soccer, in French player Hugo Robert. Echoing a phrase made popular by 1980 Olympic Hockey coach Herb Brooks, Robert explained his perspective in playing soccer. “I will play my game because I know it’s why I’m here,” Robert said.
Robert was born in eastern France, in the town of Grenoble. At five years old, his father found a job in the south of France and moved Robert to the town of Montpellier.
He joined a team in town and started down his path in soccer. He played for numerous years before being noticed by a scout from the biggest team in Montpellier.
He was told that he had the talent and that he should record himself playing. Robert’s recording was sent out to 19 different schools over the entire United States. He finally settled on three whose soccer programs caught his eye. One college was in Seattle, another in New York and finally ELAC.
Robert said that his decision was simple. California had a much better environment than either New York or Washington and he had some experience with the area. Robert has three months livng in the U.S.
His entire family were all supportive of his decision to leave France and follow his dream to play soccer in the states. Robert said that if he had stayed, he would have been forced to decide between playing soccer or deciding what career he wanted.
Robert said he had to learn to adapt to the change in style between European and American style soccer. He said that growing up he was always a shorter player, but in Europe being shorter didn’t mean he would not be able to play.
He said that in contrast to the US, where being physically imposing was important, in Europe it was how well players learned technique that would decide their fate. Robert said that the clubs in Europe tend to take players for years and teach them and the more technical style of soccer playing.
European soccer focuses more on ball handling and emphasizes technique rather than physical force, according to Robert. The idea of touching and passing the ball to create plays, is something that he learned over the years. Playing at ELAC, Robert has had to work more on the physical side of the sport than, he previously had to.Huskies head coach Eddie Flores said that it has been really good coaching Robert. He said that even though Robert came with a knowledge of European soccer, he has acclimated quite well and has become an important part of the team. “You realize he’s an asset to us. He sat down one game for an injury another game for some other matters. So the two games he was out hurt us and I think the guys realized that,” said Flores.
Robert has spent more time in the gym to compete with his fellow Huskies and continue adapting to a new style of play. Robert said that the new atmosphere has given him new challenges to face, making it something he needs to work on as part of the team.
Robert lives with two teammates and has learned more about his new surroundings from them. He said that at times he finds things hard to understand, but that his roommates have the time to help explain things on the field to him.
“It’s really good because they are really nice and they help me when the coach talks to me… because sometimes my coach will talk really fast and it’s really hard to understand him. So they help me with that,” Robert said.
Robert said that despite being happy with his change, he misses two things. He said that he misses his family back in France. He also stated that there are times after a practice where he notices that he spent the entire practice without really touching the soccer ball. He said that learning a new style of play makes him at times miss the old style of play he was accustomed to.
Robert said that he is happy to have made the move to ELAC and is committed to his two years at ELAC. His goal is to do his best so that he has an opportunity to being picked up by a division one school. Robert said he hopes this will lead to him playing in Major League Soccer.