For many people, it’s an honor to represent your country in athletics. It’s something nearly every athlete wants. It’s not for individual achievement, however. It’s to be able to represent something greater than the individual. Rehana Murani and Gina Pacheco now have that opportunity.
Both traveled more than 1,500 miles from Canada to play soccer at the University of South Florida. Murani, a native of Edmonton, and Pacheco, a native of Ottawa, started in all four games this season, bringing an international presence to the Bulls.
Members of the USF coaching staff recruited them at soccer tournaments in the United States. Right away, Murani felt a connection to USF.
“I thought the work ethic of the coaching staff was very impressive,” she said. “Everything was so positive, and I felt really comfortable.”
Coach Denise Schilte-Brown knows a lot about playing soccer abroad. A native of Grimsby, Ontario, she played soccer in college in the United States, as well as professionally in Germany. Schilte-Brown said she feels that the freshman pair has handled the new situation well.
“I think they have meshed really well with the team,” Schilte-Brown said. “They have a healthy respect, and the team has been blessed to have them here.”
It has not been an easy transition, though. Moving such a great distance, having to adapt to a different climate and experiencing life as college freshmen isn’t easy. Not to mention the two are coming into a team where 21 of the 32 members are newcomers.
“I’d say a big difference is the heat,” Murani said. “The hardest thing, though, was figuring campus out. I came right in the middle of preseason, so it was a fast transition.”
However, both Murani and Pacheco said their strong foundations have prepared them well.
“My parents have been so supportive,” Pacheco said. “They wanted me to have the best soccer experience possible because they know it is my love. They do so much, and you don’t realize it until they’re not here by your side.”
Now, Murani and Pacheco will bring experience to a young USF team.
According to the latest FIFA World Rankings, the Canadian women’s national soccer team is ranked 10th internationally. Both Murani and Pacheco have represented Canada at the provincial level.
Pacheco was elected to the Ottawa provincial All-Star team and won a bronze medal in the Canadian National Championships.
Murani has been training at the Canadian National Training Center since 2005 and represented Alberta from the ages of 13 to 17.
“It’s an honor to play for your country,” Pacheco said. “It takes so much work and a lot of time, but in the end it’s worth it.”
Representing Canada provided both players with a sense of achievement and fulfillment, they said.
“People look at you, and you’re able to say you represented your country. You get a sense of pride,” Murani said. “When you’re on a team like that, it’s like a family, so it’s really great.”
The players make it a priority to represent where they come from wherever they go. Living in Tampa has opened up another opportunity to do that. Whether by wearing their red hair ties or their “Canada” wristbands, they bring their memories with them.
Moving to Tampa also brings a new opportunity to represent USF as student-athletes, and that’s something they said they are truly looking forward to doing.
“Every time we step on the field we have that opportunity,” Murani said. “We know that we are representing ourselves as athletes, but we also know that we represent more than that. Every game is a new experience, and every game will continue to be a new experience.”