By Kim DeRaedt
Regals FC expects a large crowd of family, friends and community members to pour into Woodforest Bank Stadium for its home opener against Corpus Christi Fuel today at 3 p.m. No matter how big the turnout, however, Regals FC will be without one beloved fan.
“Fan” wouldn’t do justice. Franco Olascoaga was a brother, a member of the Regals FC family. The former player passed away on Oct. 7 after he was struck by lightning while coaching the previous month.
Regals FC coach Miguel Landaverde remembers Olascoaga as the ideal player.
“Franco was such a disciplined player,” Landaverde said. “He fully committed himself to the team and dedicated himself to each and every practice. He truly loved the sport.”
Today’s match has been dedicated as a benefit game for Franco Olascoaga’s family. All game proceeds will go toward the family, including tickets which are available to purchase at the gate for $10. Today’s game is less about Regals FC and more about Olascoaga.
“We didn’t talk about getting the points all week,” Landverde said. “Everything we mentioned about the game centered on playing for Franco.”
This game will hold an especially dear meaning to Regals FC’s newest team member. Eighteen-year-old Paul Olascoaga will be playing in honor of his older brother.
Paul and the team will be up against a Corpus Christi squad that has stumbled in both of its opening matches. The Fuel fell to Galveston Pirate SC 2-1 at home before losing by the same score to the Texas Lonestrikers on the road last week. Meanwhile, Regals FC looks to pick up where it left off in Southern Premier Soccer League (SPSL) action after recording a 7-0 victory during the team’s visit to the Lonestrikers’ home turf.
Despite cruising through its opener, Landaverde knows that Corpus Christi Fuel will present a much greater challenge.
“We played Corpus Christi twice during the pre-season and split with them,” Landaverde said. “We’re a much different, a much better team now, but I know they will bring the best they’ve got. It’ll be tough.”
Sure, the match will be tough, but Landaverde is hardly concerned.
“There’s not much I need to tell or remind my players of,” Landaverde said. “We’ve been working on tactical and physical play all week. Otherwise, this is a very disciplined and focused team. The fans will be supporting us and supporting Franco, which will help out a lot.”
Corpus Christi coach Patrick Esqueda knows that his team is up against a determined foe. One can clearly see the desperation as Esqueda reflects on the Fuel’s challenge.
“I don’t believe we have anything to give us an advantage over Regals FC,” Esqueda said. “We are the obvious underdogs. We are playing on turf, which many of my guys are unfamiliar with. We are a new team. We’re on the road. The cards are stacked against us, that’s for sure.”
While Corpus Christi prepares to hit the road for a four-hour trek, Landaverde hopes to show hometown fans the community’s hidden sports gem.
“I hope to give fans a really good game from Regals FC, so they can see our skill level and come back to future home matches,” Landaverde said.
However, just this once, Landaverde has a favor to ask from the local community.
“I really encourage fans to come out and support Franco,” Landaverde said. “We will all try to be there as one big family in his memory.”
It would seem only fitting for fans, friends and teammates to be there for a guy who was always there for others. His brother remembers Franco as the real deal; his brother remembers him as “true”.
“He was a true brother and equally as important, a true friend,” Paul said. “Franco had my back for anything and everything.”
A giver by nature, it’s no surprise that Franco fell into coaching.
“My dad was a coach, and Franco loved to teach kids all he knew about the sport,” Paul said. “His life revolved around soccer.”
Paul would be happy if he could someday simply scratch at the surface of his brother’s commendable lifestyle. Paul will lace up his boots against Corpus Christi Fuel Sunday and take the field as a striker.
“It’s an honor to play in this game for my brother,” Paul said. “I hope I will make him proud because I know he will be watching me. I will try my hardest, and if I score, it will be dedicated to him.”
A goal would only be a small dedication to a guy whom dedicated so much of himself to the sport and his loved ones. Regals FC hopes this game will help pay tribute to a former teammate, friend and brother. Franco Olascoaga will always be a part of the Regals FC family.
Sunday’s match kicks-off at 3 p.m. at Woodforest Bank Stadium. Tickets are $10. Donations are welcome. Children 12 and under enter for free.