(WKBN) – Both Anthony Gagliardi and Gabrial Altawil have had their fair share of success on the local soccer scene. Each has helped their schools bring home a district title over the past two years but in May, they brought home a championship from Germany.
“I literally dropped to my knees when they blew the final whistle,” said Gagliardi, who’s now a Hubbard junior. “I couldn’t believe we actually won.”
“We cheered and we lifted it up. It was amazing,” said Altawil, a junior at Howland.
“We were just going there to have fun. All these other teams got there about two weeks before we did and we were just glad to be there at first,” Gagliardi said.
“After the first training session, we were actually considered the favorites,” Altawil said. “It was a surprise, especially since there were such big soccer playing countries there, like Germany, and we were considered the favorites.”
Gagliardi and Altawil were one of just ten youth players in the country to earn a spot on the USA roster at the Bayern Munich Youth Cup.
Bayern is considered one of the top club soccer teams in the world, worth over $700 million. That’s in the top five in the world, according to the Business Insider.
“I was walking out the tunnel and you just look, and it is just the whole stadium and my heart just sunk, like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I could just imagine all the people that have played there. These professional players were standing right where I was at one time,” Gagliardi said.
It was a tournament to remember for Gagliardi, netting two goals in the semifinal against China to get the Americans to the final. That came along with a little fame.
“After the game, they interviewed me and these little kids wanted my autograph. I felt like a celebrity, just this little guy from the U.S., giving out autographs to little kids,” he said.
But it wasn’t just fame and fun for the two northeast Ohio boys. It was the trip of a lifetime, which brought some cultural experience that doesn’t happen every day for a couple of 16-year-olds.
“To go there and experience it in real life was just on another level,” Altawil said. “Even like you mentioned, all the other countries that were with us. We had a culture night there that was very intriguing. From Singapore, some Germans, clearly, people from India, China. It was just a crazy experience and it was really great.”