Student Athlete Profile- Anthony Gonzalez

By: Gabriella Gonzalez

Anthony Gonzalez may be a soccer player, but it is because it’s in his blood. He spent 3 years in Santiago, Chile playing for a club team during High School.

University of Utah student Anthony Gonzalez is a student athlete, part-time employee, husband and full-time student who is studying business.

Anthony Gonzalez has been a player for the U of U Men’s soccer club for the past three years.

He said he finds it challenging being a student and an athlete because you have to balance family, school and soccer.

“Soccer is fun, but I know that it’s not the most important thing in life,” Gonzalez said,

Gonzalez has been playing soccer for most of his life. He is 25 years old, but he has been playing soccer for 19 years.

“My favorite part of the game is that it takes me back to my childhood,” he said.

Julie Gonzalez, Anthony’s mother and loyal game attendee, dedicates so much time to watching her son play soccer.

“I love to watch Anthony enjoy himself and have fun while playing soccer,” Julie Gonzalez said. “Anthony has so much finesse and is pretty to watch.”

Julie Gonzalez has watched Anthony Gonzalez play soccer all his life. She has noticed how he has changed as a player.

“Anthony has changed overtime by being more confident and comfortable,
she said. “He has always been skillful and had leadership qualities.”

The New York Times article, “It’s Not an Adventure, It’s a Job,” by Bill Pennington, had a quote from Tim Poydenis that said, “most of us are nonrevenue-sport sport athletes who have to do our own fund-raising just to pay for basics like sweat pants and batting gloves. We miss all these classes, which obviously doesn’t help is or make our professors happy. We give up almost all of our free time.”

Anthony Gonzalez can relate to this quote because he says that it is hard balancing life sometimes when you have sports taking up a lot of your time.

Coach of the U of U Men’s soccer team, Nelson Gonzalez, is proud of his team for making this sacrifice of time to play the sport.

Nelson Gonzalez has coached the team for two years, and he has coached other soccer teams for 20 years and he played soccer for 15.

Nelson Gonzalez said one of his favorite things about coaching the U team is the “association with good young men and the pleasure of seeing the team play like I want them to.”

Nelson Gonzalez is also Anthony Gonzalez’s father. He has watched his son play soccer for 19 years. Nelson Gonzalez said that he is proud of his son’s passing skills.

“Anthony always takes care of the ball and his accuracy is very high. Anthony makes simple and not so simple effective passes,” Nelson Gonzalez said “But one of his weaknesses would be is pure speed. He is not the fastest of players, but could be if he worked at it.”

Anthony Gonzalez says the hard work pays off.

“Even though it’s hard to balance soccer, family, and work,” he said, “it is all worth it in the end because it brings me happiness.”



Sports are their safe haven


When the air starts to get cold and the grass begins to freeze it means one thing here in Utah: church basketball is about to begin.

For many men and women in Utah church basketball is a way to spend time with friends and get to know new members of their communities. However, for two individuals it is much more than that. 

For brothers Hau, 17, and Minh Nguyen, 13, church basketball is a place to belong, an organization to be part of. Church basketball is their release from the harsh reality that invades their past and their minds.

Hau and a friend in Salt Lake City.

Hau and a friend in Salt Lake City. Photo by Brad Taggart

In their home country of Vietnam, Hau and Minh were victims of war and poverty.  They spent most of their childhood in refugee camps where they weren’t able to play sports, much less basketball.

But these two boys were among the lucky ones.  After spending the first nine years of their lives in the refugee camps they were given the opportunity to come to the U.S.  This is a process that takes time and many efforts from many people on their behalf.

“I remember praying to God while I was in the camp to let me free and to live a good life,” Hau said.  “At first nothing happened and I didn’t know if there was a God but then we were helped and freed. I will never forget that God rescued me.”

The International Rescue Committee was the answer to Hau’s prayer.  The IRC is an organization based in New York City that helps individuals and families like these boys come into the U.S. and escape the horrific life of the refugee camps. 

Minh, 13, moved to Dallas before settling in Salt Lake City.

Minh, 13, moved to Dallas before settling in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of the Nguyen family.

Once the necessary paperwork was complete the two boys and their mother ended up in Dallas.  This is where they were introduced to the game of basketball and were shown the ropes by some of the volunteers at the IRC.

After spending a few years in Dallas the boys and their mother moved to Utah to be with some relatives from Vietnam.

“All I wanted to know was if there would be basketball in our new home,” Hau said.  “When I found out that there was I was very excited because I really like basketball now.”

The boys were told about church basketball by a friend from school and have not stopped going ever since.  “I didn’t know if it was OK to play basketball at a church,” Nguyen said. “I asked my mom and she said it was OK and that I should have fun. I was really happy when she told me that.”

Randy Kruger, activities coordinator for the Riverside Stake in Salt Lake City, said, “Its great to see so many new faces. They [Hau and Minh] seem to really enjoy the basketball and it’s a good way to befriend some kids or adults in our community that may not be LDS.”

Church ball has been around for several years and every year it seems to get more popular. Members of the LDS church are the ones responsible for inviting those friends who like to play basketball but don’t have anywhere to play it. 

“I have invited a couple of friends,” said Kalab Cox, a member of the 29th Ward basketball team in the Riverside Stake. “My one buddy said that he thought the church was cool for putting together this league.” 

Basketball isn’t the only sport refugees can find in Utah. Soccer is a very popular sport around the world and many refugees have found places to play in the valley on a weekly basis.

In Rose Park soccer begins every Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and lasts until about 1:00 p.m.  Anyone is welcome to play.

Hau is one of many people who play soccer there. “I like to play basketball in the winter and soccer in the summer,” Hau said. “I am really bad at soccer though. I think I am better at basketball so I play that more.”

The sports continue to gain followers and more and more refugees are finding a way to get involved and play the sports they love.

“Over 30 players come out on a regular basis,” said Gilbert Sanchez, a member of the family that started playing every Sunday. “Every Sunday it seems to get bigger and bigger.” Some of the players come from all over the world. 

A small town just a few miles from where Hau and Minh grew up in Vietnam.

A small town just a few miles from where Hau and Minh grew up in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the Nguyen family.

“We have players from Africa, Asia, South America and from here in Utah,”  Sanchez said. “We want everyone to come play and have fun.”

But Kruger and others hope refugees will continue to find their way to the basketball court.

“I just want to continue to see more and more newcomers,” Kruger said. “If they are or aren’t refugees I want them to feel invited and welcome. That is our whole goal with this church basketball league.”

Hau and his younger brother Minh will continue to play as long as they can. “If they will let me play ’til I am 70 years old I will still come and play,” Minh said. “As long as I can walk and shoot the ball I will keep coming.”

Sandra Plazas: Overcoming diversity


Sandra Plazas has encountered adversity in moving to a new country and running a business.

However, the challenges of entering a new culture did not deter her from pursuing her goals, and the task of running the newspaper, Mundo Hispano, is something that she sees as a duty and service to the Wasatch Front.

“One of the things that Mundo Hispano has become is the voice of the community,” Plazas said. “We are covering the issues that affect the community, and we value the trust the community has put in us.”

Plazas and her mother, Gladys Gonzalez, publish Mundo Hispano and own a Hispanic marketing and consulting company named HMC-La Agency.

Yet they faced many difficulties on the path to where they are today.

Plazas, a native of Colombia, was forced to leave the country in 1991 when her mother was threatened with death by “Narco-Guerillas,” a term she used to describe people involved in the drug trade and violence in Colombia.

Plazas was about to graduate from Universidad Externado de Colombia in Bogotá. However, her plans were quickly altered.

When Plazas and her mother arrived in Utah they found work cleaning bank floors in Utah County, a cruel irony considering the fact that Gonzalez had a career in Colombia working for what is today Chase Manhattan Bank.

“The thing I learned best was persistence,” she said, when discussing the difficulties she faced. With this approach, she finished her degree in communication and media over the Internet.

By 1993, Plazas and her mother were ready for change. They wanted to do something that they could enjoy and careers that would give them a future.

They decided to start a newspaper that would serve the Hispanic community, taking a risk and investing money that Gonzalez had saved.

“People said [we were] making the biggest mistake of our lives,” Plazas said.

But, it seems that Plazas has proved the doubters wrong.

Starting as a publication with 1,000 copies per month, Mundo Hispano now prints 10,000 copies per week and has a readership of about 23,000 people. It is distributed for free along the Wasatch Front, Tooele, Park City and Heber City. Subscriptions are also available for $50 every six months.

Through Mundo Hispano Plazas publishes many articles that help Hispanics in a new culture gain knowledge about basic services and where they can go to find them.

These articles provide critical information to Latinos. But, Plazas also has a bigger goal for the paper.

“Our dream is that we would be a bridge between the two communities,” Plazas said. “As each community learns from each other we will increase understanding.”

This desire to dissolve barriers between Latinos and non-Latinos in Utah has led her to take part in other service as well.

Plazas is a member of the Utah Hispanic/Latino Legislative Task Force, a group that meets every Friday during the legislative session to analyze bills and how they will affect the Hispanic community. They issue press releases, talk to the media and testify before state representatives.

Bills such as House Bill 241 threaten to create more adversity for Latinos in Utah, limiting the opportunity for some to attend college. Plazas fights this measure through her work on the task force and by educating the public through Mundo Hispano.

“Other papers focus on sensationalism,” Plazas said. “We focus more on integration and differentiation. We do more analytical news, how it affects the community, and what we can do. We can change the legislation.”

While Plazas continues her involvement in political issues, she also focuses on service for children and teenagers.

“One of my most rewarding experiences is coaching a team of under-privileged Hispanic kids in soccer. It’s showing these kids a new world,” she said.

Plazas started the competitive team after her son Carlos, 15, was not selected to play for another club.  Players must maintain at least a “B” grade point average and perform community service. In return, Plazas finds sponsorships to help pay the $14,000 cost and covers the remainder herself.

“I am like their mom,” Plazas said. “Most of them are aiming for college, but some still don’t believe they can do it.”

She said many of the boys she coaches are ignored by their school counselors and discouraged from attending college. However, she makes an effort to steer her players in a different direction by explaining the opportunities that exist in higher education.

On both the playing field and the pages of her newspaper, Plazas wants knowledge to open up better financial opportunities for Latinos.

“I don’t see how you can have economic development with an uneducated society,” she said.

The themes of learning and overcoming adversity are common in Plazas’ life. She hopes that along with her other efforts, Mundo Hispano will be a source of education for the people of Utah.

“What we have done in the community is more important than making money,” Plazas said. “The newspaper has a mission, a mission of integration and unity within the two communities.”

Mundo Hispano publisher discusses her life, newspaper


Sandra Plazas is the coach of a soccer team for at-risk youth, vice president of an advertising agency and publisher of Mundo Hispano, a newspaper she owns with her mother.

Large businesses advertise in the publication, including Nordstrom and Coca-Cola. The advertising agency, Hispanic Marketing and Consulting-La Agency, has been Plazas’ most financially successful endeavor and the soccer team encourages teenagers to do well at school and in life.

“But it was not always this nice,” Plazas said

Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Plazas fled to the United States in 1991 when she was 20.

Her mother, Gladys Gonzalez worked for the Colombian branch of Chase Manhattan Bank when the company was threatened by guerilla warfare. The bank closed its doors and officials offered to help Plazas and Gonzalez relocate to New York or California. But the family chose Utah instead because of their faith in the Mormon church.

It wasn’t easy for Gonzalez to find work in Utah. “She was either overqualified or underqualified for every job she applied for,” Plazas said. Gonzalez eventually found a job cleaning floors at banks in Utah County.

Plazas also faced struggles when she arrived. “I couldn’t hold a conversation,” she said. The only English that Plazas knew was the little she learned in high school. “Now I love the United States, but at that point I didn’t,” she said.

In addition to new challenges, Gonzalez and Plazas also shared journalistic experience. Gonzalez had three years of college experience in the field, but left when her daughter fell ill with meningitis and was put in the hospital for about three weeks. “She felt that she wasn’t there to take care of me and that’s why I got sick,” Plazas said. “She wanted to make sure I was safe.”

Years later, Gonzalez returned to school to pursue a degree in business. But Plazas followed in her mother’s journalistic footsteps and graduated from Externado University of Colombia in Bogotá with a degree in journalism and communication.

In 1993, Plazas and Gonzalez put their education to use and started Mundo Hispano. They saw a need for a Hispanic news publication in Utah and began cutting and pasting articles on a dining-room table.

Plazas said the early years of the publication were the hardest and many told her there weren’t enough Hispanics in Utah to keep the newspaper running. “There were times I was burned out and I said I don’t think I can make it anymore,” she said.

Plazas and Gonzalez didn’t give up. To increase publication and target the Hispanic market, they enticed advertisers by offering free advertising space. It encouraged businesses to trust the publication, showing them that the newspaper was serious in its goals.

One of the main goals of the newspaper is to serve as a connection between the Spanish and English speaking communities in Utah. If Plazas ever decides to sell the newspaper she wants the buyer to have the same ambitions she does. “We believe this can be a bridge of understanding,” Plazas said.

For more than a year, the mother and daughter team printed 1,000 copies per month with two pages in both English and Spanish. Since the Spanish articles usually turned out much longer and it affected the format, only the editorial is in both languages today.

The newspaper also focuses on resources for Utah’s Hispanic population. To do this, Plazas and Gonzalez need to have cultural understanding.

“There are 25 cultures within the Hispanic community in the state,” Plazas said. “There are different dialects and they don’t want to be boxed as a whole.” Since there is such diversity among Spanish readers, the newspaper uses dialect from Spain, where the language originated.

The newspaper has had success reaching the community with 10,000 copies distributed each month and 2.7 readers per copy. The publication has a reporter in Mexico and one in Colombia. Plazas wants to find correspondents in Argentina and Europe as well to enhance the newspaper she runs with her mother.

Plazas works closely with Gonzalez at the newspaper, she also spends time with her children on the soccer field. Before she became involved in journalism, Plazas said she was a tomboy and loved soccer. She was the only girl on her high school’s team. The coaches of opposing teams wouldn’t worry about her though, until she started scoring goals.

Plazas’ children, Carlos, 15, and Paula, 12, also play soccer. She started a team so her son would have a chance to play when he didn’t make it onto another team. “My uncle used to tease me and tell me I bought a team for my son,” she said.

Today, many of the same players are still on the team, which started around 1998. Each team member has to keep a high grade point average in school, be well-behaved at home and help their community in order to play.

“They were all at-risk kids,” Plazas said. “Some counselors have told them they don’t have what it takes to make it.” Most of the players are considering college; some are looking for scholarships in soccer. “Before, those kids didn’t even know what a scholarship was,” she said.

Plazas said the soccer team has been her greatest accomplishment because she helped change the children’s lives for the better.

Another area Plazas makes a difference is politics as a member of Utah’s Hispanic Legislative Task Force. The group meets at the beginning and middle of the legislative session to study bills being presented and decide their position on them.

“In legislation right now there are immigration bills right and left,” Plazas said. She encourages others not to ignore issues surrounding migrant communities and said they work low paying jobs, yet pay taxes that benefit Utah.

Immigration bills are just some of the issues Mundo Hispano covers. At times, Plazas and Gonzalez argue over how to cover problems in the community. “Sometimes she feels that she’s right just because she’s my mom,” Plazas said. Despite their disagreements, Plazas feels that the newspaper serving the Hispanic community.

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