Long-time girls soccer coach Susan Leining’s love of the game helped bring a soccer program to Santa Fe, and now it has taken her to some exotic locales following the game at its highest level at the World Cup.

“I love soccer and love to travel,” Leining said. “We traveled to South Africa for the Cup in 2010 and had a blast. Brazil seemed like an exciting adventure, and it’s turning out to be just that.”

Traveling from Texas to Brazil for this year’s World Cup, Leining, who made the trip with her daughter Katie, left an area fanatic about football for another that may love their futbol even more.

“Soccer is life for the people of Brazil. They play it in sand lots, on the beach, on the street corner, everywhere,” Leining said. “We also saw other fans carrying soccer balls in the airport, not about to miss a chance to play.”

Before the Brazil-Croatia match, the World Cup opener, Leining attended a fan festival in Salvador, Brazil for one of her top highlights of the experience, so far. She also got to attend one of the top match-ups she wanted to see pretty early on — the Netherlands-Spain match.

“It was fun to stand and sit next to others who love the game as much as I do,” Leining said. “At the stadium, when Spain’s player Diego Costa touched the ball, the entire stadium erupted in ‘boos,’” Leining said. “He is a Brazilian player who decided not to play for Brazil, so he is considered a traitor in a true futboler’s eyes. The Spain fans don’t like him because he replaced a starter whom they loved.”

While Brazilians and all the fans of the nations represented are extremely passionate about their teams, Leining said fans of the Netherlands stood out as the wildest of the bunch.

“The Dutch fans are crazy and love their team and the game,” Leining said. “(Friday), they had an entire town square for a huge party prior to the (Spain) game. They were also singing in the restaurant and giving the Spain fans a run for their money.”

Outside of the soccer festivities, other Brazilian adventures Leining said she plans to experience include a canoe excursion on the Amazon River and visits to tourist destinations like the Christ the Redeemer Statue and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro.

Leining, who still resides in Santa Fe, was the Santa Fe Lady Indians head girls soccer coach from the program’s inception in 1996 until 2001. She was a club soccer coach from 1991 to 2001 and also frequently served as a referee.

Contact Sports Editor James LaCombe at 409-683-5242 or james.lacombe@galvnews.com.


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