By Shane Hulsey
Simon Chrétien’s hometown is halfway across the globe, but he brought the sport he grew up playing with him to Quincy University.
Chrétien, a defensive midfielder on the QU men’s soccer team, hails from Christchurch, a city of about 400,000 people on New Zealand’s east coast.
How far away is that? Try a 29-hour flight from Quincy, Ill.
As a sophomore in 2018, Chrétien played in 18 of QU’s 19 games, including 15 starts, and played the fifth-most minutes on the squad. The Hawks finished the season with an 8-9-1 record, a two-win improvement from their 6-10 showing in 2017.
In a conversation with QUMedia’s Shane Hulsey, Chrétien talked about his early years playing soccer, his family, his adaptation to QU, and how his experiences in the United States differ from the ones he had in New Zealand.
Q: How did you get into soccer when you were younger, and what influence did your family have on you getting involved with soccer?
A: My parents actually didn’t play any form of soccer, but growing up in New Zealand, the first ball I picked up was a soccer ball. I have two younger brothers, and they also picked up the sport. Just by playing at school and with friends and neighbors, we just started picking up football—soccer, as you guys say—and little by little we just started to enjoy it and kept going from there, really.
Q: What about Quincy appealed to you? Why did you choose to come here all the way from New Zealand?
A: Yeah that’s a funny odd question, I get that a lot. To be honest with you, the soccer program just has a lot of history to it. It’s in a very competitive conference, as well. It was also just an ability for me to play soccer overseas, to experience a different lifestyle and to see things differently, really.
Q: How has the transition from New Zealand to America gone? Similarities? Differences?
A: Initially I was taken aback a little bit. It is a culture shock at first. My coaches, Mike Carpenter and Ben Clarvis, have helped me a lot. They’ve definitely helped me settle in in terms of getting comfortable within the setup of the team. I think one of the biggest differences (between New Zealand and America) is the professionalism here is of a very high standard in terms of the pitch, the locker room and everything, which is consistent across (the teams). Almost every soccer program here has a very stable setup. I was lucky enough to have a good education in soccer, but I find in New Zealand it is very up and down, whereas I find here there is a great deal of consistency within the programs.
Q: What soccer memory stands out to you from growing up in New Zealand?
A: When I was younger, I played in this tournament called the Nike Cup. It’s a worldwide tournament. You start in your region, then your country, then the world competition. I was the captain of my club in Christchurch. We won our regional tournament then went on to the national tournament. Although we didn’t qualify (for the worldwide tournament), we still made it to the semifinals of the national tournament. It was just a really cool experience just because of how much fun I had, and some of those guys are still some of my best mates.
Q: How did soccer in New Zealand prepare you for soccer in the states?
A: I actually think about that often. In New Zealand, I played with a lot of older players. I came through a sort of academy system then I went straight into a premier men’s competition. If you’re old enough, you’re good enough is kind of the concept. I know in America, you play for your high school and within your age group, but I managed to be one of the better players at my age, I guess you could say, so I played with older men. That helped me learn about the reality of football and the ordeal of how men go about it. This helps you prepare because it gives you that intensity and physical nature to adapt and be ready for big games.
Q: The team improved a lot, I thought, this past season from the year before. How would you evaluate the team’s progress?
A: We had a progressive year, I’d say. The team’s culture has improved a lot. If you talked to a lot of my teammates, I think they would say the same thing. We all get along really well, and we have a real terrific team atmosphere. On the field, we’ve just added more quality with some of the freshmen that came in and played well, and the boys have worked really hard at being clinical in front of goal, I’d say. It just shows that with hard work and the adding of high-quality players, we can accomplish some things.