In Germany, visiting Virginia Tech is home team
May 17, 2007
ENKENBACH-ALSENBORN, Germany — The match between the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team and a German amateur squad from Kaiserslautern on Tuesday didn’t count, but it did matter.
Especially to those who proudly hail from “Hokie Nation.”
For Army 1st Lt. Shane Wood, attending the game was a chance to show his pride in his beloved alma mater on the eve of the one-month anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting. Most of all, it was an opportunity for the university’s small number of alumni in the area to get together.
Those who attended Virginia Tech and are stationed in Germany have grown closer since the tragedy.
“For us, to go back and see a Tech game is really hard,” said Wood, commander of the 486th Movement Control Team at nearby Kleber Kaserne. “For them to come to Germany, we had to come out and support the team. It’s cool. It’s awesome.”
The Virginia Tech team stopped in the Kaiserslautern area as part of a 12-day trip through Europe to play club teams in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Hokies on Tuesday lost 5-2 to the FC Kaiserslautern Red Devils amateur team, a squad filled with players aspiring to make the city’s professional team. But Virginia Tech fans found reason to cheer.
More than 60 people attended the match, with the overwhelming majority wearing Tech sweat shirts and hats at the Red Devils’ practice complex.
Wood, who graduated in 2005, stood out. He sported oversize, white-rimmed sunglasses, his alma mater’s sweat shirt and a soccer ball sliced in half and made into a hat.
Army 1st Lt. Roberto Fonseca, who is assigned to the Baumholder-based 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery, joined him in the small group of maroon and orange wearing a Tech football jersey.
“This is what we do,” Fonseca said. “We try and get together anytime we can … it’s just part of that Hokie spirit that everyone is talking about in the news today.”
That school spirit Fonseca mentioned emerged in the wake of the April 16 shootings, which left 33 dead, and it spread to graduates serving in Germany. The week of the massacre a small group of alums in the area gathered at a base flagpole in Baumholder to hold a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims.
That spawned the idea of future gatherings among overseas grads and the possibility of putting together a Web site to help new arrivals stay connected.
“We’re a family,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Sturgill, a Virginia Tech grad who is the U.S. Air Forces in Europe branch chief for capabilities at Ramstein Air Base.
On Tuesday, players noticed the alumni support sprawled out on lawn chairs and blankets along the sideline. After the end of the game, team members gave the crowd an ovation and later came over to pose for pictures and sign autographs.
The team has been planning the European trip for more than a year, raising cash to pay the expenses.
Ben Nason, a senior midfielder and captain of the team, said coming to Europe has helped him improve his game and given the team an opportunity to “get away” from a campus still mourning.
“It was a tough time for us,” Nason said of the shootings. “But the community came together really well during it, and the team came together.”
Head coach Oliver Weiss, who grew up in Germany and came to America as a teenager, said the trip has been good for the team.
“It was looked at as, ‘Hey, this is exactly what we need at this time when everybody is sort of hurting,’ ” Weiss said. “It’s a chance for us to find some togetherness and maybe get through it a little bit easier.”