If one listens to Bienvenido Martinez and Fernando Covarrubias, it's usless for the Interhigh League to bother to field soccer teams. The two talented players would bet their respective countries' resources that the Multicultural Bilingual High School will waltz to the soccer title in its first full year of existence.
Martinez, a native of the Dominican Republic, played for Wilson's championship runner-up team last year. Covarrubias, who arrived here from Bolivia three years ago, didn't play at Wilson because he felt the team wasn't disciplined enough. But their problems weren't on the soccer field. Both are just becoming familiar with the English language and were struggling in the classroom.
"I had problems talking with my classmates," Covarrubias said in broken English. "I couldn't understand all my assignments or what the teacher was talking about."
Just after last Christmas, Martinez, Covarrubias and several other foreign students applied and were accepted at the Bilingual school, established mainly to instruct non-American students ages 16-21. The school was located in the Marie Reed Elementary School in the Adams-Morgan area in Northwest Washington, which has a high concentration of Hispanic families.
The school, which received $700,000 from the Department of Labor, opened in February for 60 students. But a deluge of applications forced the school to expand and move to larger facilities. Now situated in the Lincoln Junior High School at 16th and Irving Streets NW, MCIP has 160 students, 80 percent of them Spanish-speaking, and 10 teachers. The only school of its type in the country, MCIP offers a regular high school curriculum and comes under the direct administration of the D.C. public school system.
Lincoln Principal Michael Durso likes having the Bilingual school at Lincoln.
"They have decorated the halls, put down carpet and the building looks 100 percent better," Durso said. "And they get along with the junior high kids. We haven't had any problems."
"Only approximately 10 percent of our students speak English fluently, so we naturally concentrate in that area," said Maria Tukeva, who helped put the program together and is MCIP's director. "But we also give the students instruction in their native language as well. Thus far, the program has run very smoothly. Except for the large number of applicants we can't handle yet, we haven't had any problems."
While the school is going through the usual growing pains, its focal point is its soccer team. Several of the players left Wilson to enroll at MCIP and have teamed with other skilled performers to make up a team almost the equal of those of area colleges. In its first two games, MCIP beat Wilson, perennial Interhigh powerhouse, 4-2, with Covarrubias scoring two goals, then lost to defending champion Theodore Roosevelt, 3-1. MCIP will play either one, or both, in the playoffs.
"I have 18 players, all foreign, and they are extremely talented," said Don Pedro, a teacher who has coached soccer 18 years and was known as the father of soccer in Guam. "There is no problem communicating because they want to play and are very willing to work. They are very disciplined and I have to agree we would have an advantage over the other league teams because all of these players have been playing for years."
The Interhigh had seven teams but Dunbar and Spingarn withdrew because of lack of interest. The schedule had to be rearranged and MCIP had to face defending League champion Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson in its first two games.
"Roosevelt beat us in the final last year but we should have won easily," said Martinez, a senior defender. "I played against all of the teams last year and from what I see on the MCIP team, we shouldn't have any problem. All of our players are very skilled and the atmosphere here is much, more comfortable. Everyone here loves soccer and is willing to work to be a champion.
"We are more comfortable in the school setting because the teachers spend time and work with us and we can communicate with everyone," he said. "When we all transferred here, the first thing we wanted to do was form a soccer team. The next thing we wanted to do was play Wilson."
Pedro kept all 25 players (the school has about 100 boys) who came out for the team (seven on the taxi squad).
"We have players from at least seven different countries and they are very good players," said Pedro. "Covarrubias, only a junior, will score many goals from his striker spot. Martinez is a great defender. Saul Diaz and Enrique DeLaRosa are also very good players. The (Washington) Diplomats would do themselves a service if they sent someone over here to see them play. Some of these players will one day play in the NASL."
Tukeva is also excited about the soccer team.
"We only have the soccer team and a dance group right now, but we plan to have a few more clubs before the year is out," she said. "Eventually, we want to have as many sport teams as the other schools. But right now, all we have is a soccer team."
Tukeva wouldn't say it, but like the spirited Pedro and team, she feels she has a championship soccer team.