Dante Garcia was very much on the minds of his Madrid Premier soccer teammates when his Division 3 team played in the Stanford Summer Classic Tournament at Twin Creeks on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 20 and 21.
Dante’s Madrid Premier soccer team (based in Atascadero) missed his talent (he was their captain) and missed his energy and leadership.
So, knowing he would want them to go all-out, his teammates dedicated the tournament to Dante — and wound up winning the gold medal.
They won their first match in their Division 3 bracket, 1-0, then repeated that score to win their second tournament match. In their third match — which they needed to win to qualify for the final round — they won 2-0, according to Fidel Figueroa, the father of player Fidel Figueroa Jr.
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In the championship game Sunday against Heritage Ranch from San Jacinto, Madrid Premier fell behind 1-0, but came back to tie the match, which went into two overtimes.
The Madrid Premier players, certain that Dante was watching them from on high, struck gold with their penalty kicks, winning 5-4 to claim the tournament championship.
“It was really emotional,” said Fidel Figueroa, whose son and Dante were best friends, having played soccer together their whole lives, along with swimming together in the pool at the San Simeon Lodge (the senior Figueroa is a proprietor) and hanging out together as close friends do.
After the winning match, the parents and friends of Madrid Premier — and the players — shed a lot of tears, Fidel Figueroa said.
“They really believed Dante had helped them win. For about 30 minutes we let the boys cry and cry, and they pointed to the sky. It really was emotional,” he said.