KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - One could look at the story of Kaiserslautern’s ongoing – and one-sided – soccer feud with Ramstein as a simple, straightforward one.
No one on this year’s boys or girls teams has ever celebrated a Kaiserslautern win over the archrival Royals. One could presume that the program’s all-encompassing goal, then, is to do just that.
That’s not exactly the case.
Beating Ramstein is a goal. But not either Raider team’s primary goal. Each team’s primary objective this season is to win a European championship, a feat that would likely require a win over Ramstein at some point. In the meantime, games against Ramstein, like this Thursday evening girls and boys doubleheader under the lights of Kaiserslautern’s new stadium, are simply means to that eventual end.
At times, beating Ramstein is paramount.
“The Ramstein game is something special for me. I have a few friends who go to that school,” sophomore midfielder Ryan Rimmler said. “And I don’t like losing. Especially against our rival school.”
Junior striker Lacey Peace, called up this year from the junior varsity ranks, agreed.
“Us girls are more like, ‘We must get them,’ than we are in our other games,” Peace said during the Raiders’ Tuesday practice, clenching her hands in a gesture of intensity.
That’s the kind of wild-eyed determination one might expect from a long-frustrated program such as Kaiserslautern. But it’s not as severe as all that.
“We’re still practicing the same,” Peace said moments later. “As hard as we normally do.”
And players said that if they eventually graduate or move away without ever beating Ramstein, the moments that make up their Kaiserslautern career will remain just as memorable.
“The last four years we’ve had really, really amazing teams. And we’ve come a long way,” senior striker Hannahlee Acuavera said, citing the Raider girls’ consecutive third-place finishes in the last two European tournaments. “I think we were grateful for third place. We worked really hard. That was better than going home with nothing at all.
“It was a lot of fun.”
But as sensible as those comments sound, Acuavera, now in her fourth year as a varsity player, is also prone to fantasizing about a hypothetical win over Ramstein.
“I want it more than anything in this world,” Acuavera said. “I love soccer so much.”
Like Acuavera, Kaiserslautern boys goalkeeper Anthony Walker is in his fourth year as a member of the Raider varsity. He recalled a game in his sophomore season, his first year as a starter, in which a “cheap” goal allowed Ramstein to escape with a 1-1 tie. The memory of that non-victory, and the string of losses that followed it, fuels Walker’s desire for “revenge.”
“I only have a few more chances, and I want to leave the school knowing that I have beaten the rivals,” Walker said.
A case of single-minded obsession? Not so much.
“We know that they’re strong, we know they’re a good team and we know we need to work as hard as we do for any game,” Walker said. “Not to get it in our heads that it’s Ramstein and we need to work extra hard. Because if we do that we’ll overpush ourselves and make mistakes.
“It’s just another game for us.”