San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Crossing the Pacific with a goal in mind

Crossing the Pacific with a goal in mind
Kristian Carreon, Senior Staff Photographer

In a matter of weeks, he went from starting at defender for his school’s soccer team to playing soccer on the international stage.

San Diego State men’s soccer sophomore midfielder Travis Nicklaw was born in the United States, but plays international soccer for a tiny country that’s 6,170 miles away and in the north Pacific Ocean: Guam.

The governing body of soccer, FIFA, stipulates that someone can play internationally for a country even if he or she wasn’t born there. As long as someone has lineage in that country, it’s OK.

That’s Travis’ case. His mother was born in Guam and moved to the United States as a young girl.

One of Travis’ three older brothers, Shawn, also plays for the Guam national team. A phone call between Shawn and Guam’s head coach Gary White was how Travis found himself in the conversation.

“(He) called my brother because my brother was playing in Denmark at the time,” Travis said.

“The next thing you know (Gary White) is asking about me and everything, then he gives me a call.”

Travis said the decision was a bit overwhelming at first because he had dreamed of playing for the U.S. national team. The decision became a bit tougher considering FIFA’s regulations: Once someone plays with the senior team in a FIFA tournament, that person is bound to that team forever.

Guam felt right for a lot of reasons.

“Once the Guam national team came into play, it kind of tugged at my heart a little bit more because it was where my mom was from and I could learn about the culture,” Travis said.

Shawn steeped in as another variable in the equation.

“We both talked about this, but when are brothers going to play on a national team together?” Travis said.

In July 2014 he packed his bags and headed west to play soccer for the Guam men’s national team, called the “Matao,” finally making it to a place he’d wanted to experience and learn about.

“It was a phenomenal experience to actually see the island for the first time,” Travis said. “I’d been hearing it from all my teammates. It lived up to its full expectations.”

The Matao played in the first round of the EAFF East Asian Cup and won two of its three matches and tied the other. Guam didn’t concede a goal in those three matches.

Travis loved Guam so much he couldn’t wait to go back. As SDSU’s season wound down, he got called up to play for the Matao once again.

Earlier in November he joined up with his Guam teammates for the semifinal round of the tournament, which was held on another small island a long way from San Diego: Taiwan.

The Matao won once, lost once and tied once.

Despite the mixed results, he said it’s been nothing but amazing for him. Along with his brother, Travis is teammates with midfielder A.J. DeLaGarza of the MLS’ LA Galaxy.

“Playing in the professional atmosphere on the national team is definitely a great experience,” Travis said. “You get to learn how the professional players live their everyday lives through on and off the field.”

As great as playing on a national team with professional soccer players is, it’s his family that has the ultimate meaning to him.

Travis has an intricate tattoo on his upper left arm. There’s a latte stone, which in Guam symbolizes freedom. In the center is a rose, which represents his mother whose name is Rose. Around the rose are four half-moons, representing the four sons in the family. There’s an outline that represents his father and then another design that represents the whole family.

And Guam seems like one big family to Travis, which is maybe another reason he’s so fond of it.

“Basically everyone knows everyone,” he said. “The atmosphere there was so laid back and chill and relaxed.”

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Crossing the Pacific with a goal in mind