By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Joey Reese of Bridgeport has always had an interest in soccer. Actually, it has been a passion since he started playing it during his preschool years! It was a childhood interest that stuck with him though. He played soccer at Bridgeport High School and would have liked to continue at the college level but says he had no scholarship offers.
However, although there was no scholarship money at Seton Hill University in PA, the coach there suggested that he be a walk-on … and he did, playing a decent amount for the team there.
“Seton Hill is a private Catholic school and it was very costly, so I later transferred to WVU,” Joey stated. “I tried out for the WVU men’s soccer team and didn’t make it, but I played on the club team my sophomore year and kept training. Beginning the second semester of my junior year, I made the team and played through the end of my senior year.”
Joey earned his degree last Spring, having studied International Relations, focusing on international security and diplomacy. To celebrate his graduation, this past summer he and his cousin Luke took a trip to Iceland. Joey noted that he has been very blessed to have been able to travel a lot; he has visited nine other countries, mostly around mainland Europe.
“But my cousin and I did some research. He is also a very outdoorsy person too, and we looked at pictures of Iceland and thought the landscape was amazing … flight costs were doable … it was a safe place to visit … and it was somewhere I hadn’t been, so we chose that as our destination!” he continued.
Joey says that as the two were out walking around one evening, they saw some guys playing soccer at Iceland University and they got into a conversation. Of course, he mentioned that he, too, played the sport. One of the players said he knew a scout and gave him the contact information. Before returning to the States, Joey spoke with the scout who said he could come and train with a couple of the teams.
“Luckily, I had taken my boots just in case something like this would transpire,” Joey explained. “The first day went well and I was supposed to go practice with another team, but both my cousin and I got food poisoning and since we couldn’t extend our trip any longer, that was the end of that.”
It is strange how opportunities often find you! Back at home this summer, Joey was invited to train with a team in Washington, D.C. for a month. After just two days, he was practicing with the A team, which he says helped his confidence.
Having so thoroughly enjoyed his graduation trip to this Nordic island, Joey says he continued to do some research on soccer in Iceland – how much were they paid … could he make a living at it, etc. And after being contacted again by the coach/scout in Iceland who wanted him to return if he could, it became a serious consideration.
“I had already been asked to be the Assistant Soccer Coach at BHS. I really was looking forward to working with these high school students and giving them more information about college soccer,” he said. “Like any kid is with any sport they love, students often idolize players and want to play at the next level. They always want to improve. Fortunately, I was able to do that and I wanted to share those experiences with the students. Then, suddenly, I was faced with the possibility that I might again be able to take it to the next level and be able to make money doing something I loved. That kind of solidified my decision to return to Iceland and give it a shot!”
Again, just in case this opportunity pans out, Joey has purchased a one-way ticket to Iceland! He leaves January 23rd and will be talking and training with two 2nd division teams, spending one week with each of them. It is a chance of a lifetime!
Joey is prepared for whatever happens. If he is selected for a position on the Icelandic pro team, he will stay. If not, he says he won’t be devastated and has a backup plan.
“With the studies I pursued at WVU, my goal was to get a job in intelligence,” he continued. “I would like to work for the FBI or CIA, but I know it is hard to do unless you’ve had an internship. I could get that experience through the military. I have gone through all the steps except for being sworn in, so that is plan #2 … but I’m going to revisit Iceland and see what happens with this opportunity. I love it there and am anxious to return.”
Is Iceland really as “chilling” as its name implies? Joey explained that it’s not really as cold as people assume.
“It doesn’t get that cold there. It is 50-60 degrees in the summer and not below 20-30 during the winter. But it does get a ton of snow! It is strange, though,” he added, “Greenland and Iceland should have their names reversed. Greenland is actually covered with massive ice!”
Iceland and Greenland are very close to one another, and both are quite far North, with Iceland sitting just beneath the Arctic circle and Greenland extending well into the Arctic circle. Iceland is the smaller of the two countries and the moderating effects of the ocean on its climate are greater, making it somewhat more temperate.
Pre-season soccer in Iceland begins in January. Joey noted that because of geothermal power, Iceland has a lot of indoor facilities for practicing prior to the actual commencement of the soccer season in the Spring/Summer. And he is anxious to arrive, try out, and see where this opportunity takes him.
“If I am not selected, it will still be another great experience for me and a chance to visit this country that boasts such an amazing landscape,” he concluded. “I am taking with me a very positive attitude, and I know I can always return and pursue something else that I’ve wanted to do in intelligence. But it is something I have to try or I would always wonder what might have been … what opportunity I might have missed … how my life might have been different.”