A player with an excellent track record has found his way to the men’s soccer program. Former member of the France U17 National team, midfielder/forward Francois “Paco” Navarro is fitting in quite well with his new team and has helped lead the Hawks to a 5-1-1 start.
The Hawks now have a player with the capability of adding a whole new dimension to the team. Navarro plays the wing and that is something that the Hawks have lacked in previous years. He is currently leading the team in points with two goals and three assists.
“When I have the ball, the first thing is like ‘I need to go forward,’” said Navarro. “I want to score goals, but I want my teammates to score goals too.”
“He’s a true winger; he’s really good going forward and that’s not something we’ve had a lot of before in the past,” said teammate Joseph Schmid.
At age 12, Navarro enrolled in the Clairefontaine Academy in France, a prestigious soccer academy which he attended from 12-15 years old. One of the best academies in all of Europe, Clairefontaine is known for its extensive training and getting their players ready for the future.
“It prepares you to go to the next level,” said Navarro. “School is real important and then you have a two and a half hour training session every day during the three years.”
Paco then became a member of the French U17 National team. He had to follow strict rules there, such as what to eat, keeping his body fit and restrictions on going out. Paco says it was a really good experience being part of a club where he learned how to prepare himself to think like a professional.
After an injury to his left knee at the age of 19, Navarro began to think about life after soccer. Up until this point, his whole life revolved around soccer. Paco’s father told him that if he’s lucky, he could play professionally for a few years, but would need something else in his background. He said to himself, ‘I need to go to school,’ which motivated him to come to the United States.
In his first year in America, while studying at William Carey University in Mississippi, Navarro had to miss the soccer season due to injury. In the summer of 2011, he was playing with the Baton Rouge Capitals to prepare himself for his sophomore season. The Capitals play in the USL Premier Development League of American soccer.
Speaking on the difference between soccer in France and America, Navarro said, “In France we’re a little more technical, we play more with the ball. Here it’s a little more physical, they come after each player.”
Navarro scored 16 goals during his sophomore season, and led the William Carey Crusaders to the final four of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) national tournament. He began looking for a new school by reaching out and sending highlight films. He has received nothing but praise from head coach Robert McCourt.
“Once we saw his first highlight film, we had a need for his position and opened up the dialogue with him,” said McCourt. “He’s really technical and creative, crafty on the ball. He links up really well and he has good tactical awareness.”
Navarro began doing research on the Monmouth program and saw the success they’ve had in the last few years. This intrigued Navarro and spiked his interest in joining the program. “I read a lot on coach McCourt and how he was preparing players to go to the MLS and the next level,” he said.
“So far, Paco’s been a real big impact for this program,” said McCourt. “He’s an experienced guy and he’s really comfortable on the ball. His comfort level and his technique on the ball seem to settle our guys when games get hectic.”
While Navarro yearns for a chance of going to the MLS, he is focusing on getting his business degree and thinking about the present. He wants a degree in order to pursue a career after soccer. In the meantime, it is soccer season and Navarro strives to win.
“It’s always a pleasure to score, even more if it’s in front of everybody, but my ultimate goal is to win games,” said Navarro.
Navarro took the field this past weekend as MU went 1-1, losing 1-0 to Seton Hall and defeating the College of Charleston by the same score.
Edney Derrick scored the winning goal against Charleston. Keeper Alex Blackburn stopped both shots that he faced.
Winning has become the norm for the soccer team. They jumped to first in the NEC standings as they open up conference games in two weeks. Navarro has also helped the Hawks peak at No. 19 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire National Rankings this season.
“Sometimes you get players with really good technique but they don’t have a good tactical awareness of the game,” said McCourt. “He has both. He’s a really talented kid.”
Monmouth returns to the pitch on Saturday, September 22 as they face off against Iona College.
PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography