Soccer, like religion, carries a universal language with a reach far beyond comprehension, and North Platte’s latest residents hope to provide both.
For Omar and Rebeca Garcia of Mexico, investing themselves into their new community is about sharing their passion and faith.
And they found a vehicle for both by hosting a free soccer camp at Centennial Park between 6 and 9 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday if weather provides.
"We wanted to introduce ourselves with something that we’re passionate about," pastor Omar Garcia said. "We wanted the satisfaction of doing something for our new community by giving the young kids another option of entertainment."
The Garcias, who moved from Edinburg, Texas, after Omar earned a bachelor’s degree in bible studies from Rio Grande Bible Institute, settled in Norfolk for three months before making their way down to North Platte nearly a month ago.
"I wanted to serve others and share that knowledge in the bible with others, so North Platte was a perfect opportunity," Garcia said. "There are Hispanics all over Nebraska, and especially here in North Platte, but there’s only one other Spanish church in town."
While in Norfolk, they befriended pastor David Martinez, who preaches at Northern Heights Baptist Church and organizes soccer camps across Nebraska with the help of
former Brazilian professional soccer player Gilson Sena.
"Gilson (Sena) and David worked together for many years in Mexico doing soccer camps," Garcia said. "He met Gilson after he came over from Brazil to play for one of Mexico’s premiere pro clubs in Las Aguilas Del America while also teaching the youth affiliate."
And with the help of Martinez and Sana, the Garcias now bring North Platte the first soccer camp of its kind, a trend they hope will continue to inspire the youth and maybe expand farther west.
"We wanted to take advantage of an opportunity by bringing it here to North Platte for the first time," Garcia said. "This is a fun camp that’s been done in other towns like Norfolk, Columbus, Lincoln and Omaha, bringing kids between 5 and 12 years old together to learn from a pro like Gilson for free."