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Senior discusses ‘beautiful game’, passion and ambition

Annabelle Messer | The Feather Online

Angel Ruelas, right, began playing soccer with his dad at the age of five.

Whether playing around the Valley or traveling throughout Europe for training, Angel Ruelas, ’20, plays soccer with multiple teams over the years. During his time on the field, Ruelas has visited several countries to refine his skills and learn from foreign teams. 

According to Soft Schools, over 250 million individuals engage in soccer year round. An Olympic sport since the year 1900, soccer or “football”, as it’s known around the globe encourages team chemistry and unity. According to World Atlas, “the beautiful game” is known to be the most popular sport in the world.

In an article published by Ryan Phillips, May 25, 2011, on Huff Post, the meaning behind “the beautiful game” is anyone can play the game of soccer. No matter where you are from, rich or poor, no expensive ball or cleats are needed. You can use a rolled up pair of socks, crumbled up piece of paper even a net filled with rags and imagination. 

Ruelas’s passion for the game is more than just club and and high school soccer. From humble beginnings in an recreational league, to competing with an academy team in San Jose, his abilities on the pitch continue to advance.

In the following podcast, Richie Cortez interviews Angel Ruelas and teammate Lorenzo Fierro, ‘21, discussing the opportunity for both of them. 

Ruelas joined a recreational soccer league at a young age, competing for fun, not with an ambitious mindset. As he continued to pursue competitive soccer, Ruelas realized a deeper love for the game.  

In terms of athletic inspiration, Ruelas’s father’s, Juan Ruelas, passion for the game influenced his son’s ambition on the pitch. He explained that his family promoted soccer as he grew up.

“I first started playing soccer around the age of five, I just played for fun,” Ruelas said. “It was a pass time; I enjoyed it. I first started playing indoor then, as I got older, I got more into outdoor soccer. Around the age of 12, I joined a competitive club team in Clovis. The mixture of the fun of the game and the competitiveness, goes hand in hand. I just fell in love with it.”

In the following tweet, Ruelas and Fierro scored in the first round of playoffs against Frazier Mountain.

Overcoming struggles

The life of a student athlete consists of practices, school, personal training and other activities that contribute to staying fit. Ruelas gave us the rundown on what a normal week looks like during his season. 

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Angel Ruelas, center, is eager to take a gap year between his senior year of high school and freshman year of college. He hopes to play overseas in Croatia.

“For a while I was playing with an academy team, living in Fresno,” Ruelas said. “I would have to travel to San Jose about two and a half or three hours to get to training. Making that commute there and back was challenge. While I was taking chemistry and advanced math, I’d do homework or study on the way to practice.”

Ruelas has maintained a 3.5+ GPA while playing and traveling. Handling the pressure with ease, tutoring and a determined work ethic is what drove him to succeed in his education. 

“When I got to practice, it was zone in and I’d lock in,” Ruelas said, “working hard for the two hour practice and drive back. I’d get home around two in the morning, wake up at six to be at school on time. I’d have training two to three times a week, not counting the games I’d play in on the weekends.” 

Athletes who travel multiple times a month often struggle to stay consistent in every area of life. Staying in shape, working on stamina and weight training to maintain a starting spot or a position on the team contributes to the struggle.

Ruelas shares the details on what his work ethic consists of off the pitch to continue to stay healthy both physically and mentally. 

“When I’m not at school, I’m on the soccer field training,” Ruelas sad. “When I’m laying in bed, I’m watching soccer. Observing a game, seeing how certain players move or, how a certain position is supposed to be played, is what I’m constantly educating myself on. There are always new ways to learn new things.”

Opportunity of a lifetime

Not many young soccer players are given the opportunity to travel and play out of their home area. It takes sacrifices to travel far and play the beautiful game. This past summer, both Ruelas and his high school teammate Lorenzo Fierro had the opportunity to represent their home state and country in Italy, playing with CYSN California Youth Soccer Management.

Both Ruelas and Fierro shared insider information on different play styles they witnessed during their time there and the what the culture was like in Italy. 

“Since I knew Spanish, I could get around a little bit,” Ruelas said. “But listening to how Italian’s speak in their language, it’s completely different. It’s similar but they have their differences. Hard to understand yet it makes sense, the people were nice and we were able to get around.”

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Angel Ruelas, left, will play for both Fresno Christian and Cencal Cosmos his senior year.

Some locations in Italy they were able to soak in included Rimini, San Marino, Tuscany, Florence, Venice and Milan. They had the opportunity to play in multiple cities; different opponents from different countries were the task every game day. 

During Ruelas’s time in Italy, he states his favorite spot throughout the entire trip was visiting the San Siro Stadium, where professional soccer teams A.C. Milan and Inter Milan play. Ruelas and his teammates were given a stadium tour and visited both locker rooms. He states it was a breath-taking experience being in the same room where many soccer legends have stepped before.

“Teams come from all over,” Ruelas said. “The one that stood out the most to us was the team from Portugal. Lorenzo’s team had made it to the final and played the Portuguese team. But to me, where I felt we had our hardest time against was the French team. They were very fast and technical.”

Teammate Fierro had the chance to play on both ’02 and ’03 age group teams. Fierro explained the differences between the two teams and his perspective on the different play styles.

“I played up with Angel’s ’01 and ’02 team and my age group ’03 and ’04 team,” Fierro said. “The competitiveness was very different, up with Angel’s team everything was about being perfect, no messing up, lots of physicality. Down on the ’03 and ’04, you could mess up every now and then, just two different types of play styles.”

Ruelas went on to say that while competing against different teams, they learned that every player has their own strengths and weaknesses. Play styles for each team varied. While they saw different ways to play the beautiful game, the team decided to stick with what they knew and their own play style.

Game day energy

Traveling around the world, playing the beautiful game, these two players have played in countless cities. Every player has their favorite spot to play, whether it’s the atmosphere or pregame and post-game hangouts. Ruelas offered his top three cities he loves to be in on game day.

“For one I enjoyed Vancouver,” Ruelas said. “While playing at the academy, I got to play at the Vancouver Whitecaps home field. So playing in British Colombia was awesome, a great experience. Vegas is always nice; they have a lot of fields and considering how much soccer is played on them they’re really nice. My third one would probably be Phoenix because of the really nice soccer complex that they have.”

Homecoming king

Megan LeBlanc | The Feather Online

Angel Ruelas, center, will participate in the annual king and queen dance during homecoming week along with the other king candidates, Oct. 3.

This upcoming fall season, Ruelas was nominated for senior class king, along with four other candidates. As a apart of the homecoming court, kings and queens participate in the annual Royal Battle, a dance competition between the kings and queens. Ruelas gave his thoughts on the upcoming events. 

“I am extremely excited for the king and queen dance,” Ruelas said. “Ever since sophomore year, when I first saw it, I wanted to be on stage and dance in front of the entire school. Honestly I was shocked; there was no way I thought I would get nominated. The dance is what I’m most looking forward to. It’s something I’ve been waiting forever to do.”

After high school, Ruelas plans on playing overseas in Croatia and take a gap year between his senior year of high school and freshman year of college. He works toward signing a professional contract and doing whatever it takes to accomplish his goal. 

For more of Cortez’s interviews check out Richie Cortez discusses Bekah Micu’s return from injury and Richie Cortez discusses FC soccer with senior Jacob Scully.

Richie Cortez can be reached via Twitter @richie_cortez9 and via email.

The slideshow below includes photos of Angel Ruelas playing soccer at a home game .

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