Former So Pas Soccer Goalie Gets Scholarship, Chance to Play in Spain

Left, Jack Gallagher and mom, Paula Gibson-Hernandez. Photo by Esme

Former So Pas High School boys soccer goalie, Jack Gallagher, had a dream. He wanted to play professional soccer. That dream came a step closer to reality as he boarded an airplane this past Sunday bound for Barcelona, Spain.

Gallagher, 18, the So Pas High School Class of 2018, has accepted what he characterized as a “generous scholarship” to join the Marcet Academy in Barcelona to learn and play soccer with some of the best young players in the world.

If he does well at the academy, and he knows that’s not a guarantee, his next stop is playing professionally at the highest level of soccer competition.

But the road has not always been an easy one for this 6 ft. 7 in., 200 lbs., goalkeeper, and if it wasn’t for his support system, he might not have gotten this far.

“I love playing soccer,” Gallagher said during an hour-long telephone interview the day before he hopped on an international flight to Spain. “But I struggled. It was a really big struggle. I kept working at it with tremendous support from my family, friends and coaches. It was a lot of hard work, mental preparation and the grit to keep going, to get through everything.”

Not only did he play at So Pas, where his senior year saw the Tigers go deep into the CIF postseason to the quarterfinals, but for the last 18 months or so, he’s been continually playing nationally and internationally.

Gallagher traveled to Norway in the summer of 2017 to play in the Norway Cup. Last spring, he was invited to try out for the Philadelphia Union Academy of Major League Soccer (MLS) and then was offered and accepted an athletic scholarship to play Division II soccer at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. Last summer, he traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to play in the B.A. Cup. He also attended Trevecca University as a member of Trojans Soccer team.

And now he’s off to Barcelona, Spain, to the Marcet Academy.

“The Marcet Academy in Barcelona made a very generous scholarship offer and I couldn’t turn it down,” Gallagher said. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime. I am so grateful. It’s a risk but I’m willing to take it. I think I’m ready.”

The Marcet Academy is similar in very general terms to a farm club in baseball where the soccer player can move on up to the pro level, Gallagher said, but it also offers the individual more than that, a well-rounded education.

“Marcet understands individualized education as a growth path that must be walked with the student or the contributor,” according to the Marcet website, “Therefore, this institution rejects standardized formulas that abound in the Football and Education worlds.”

Furthermore, Marcet says it has produced a significant number of pro soccer players.

“Marcet effectiveness is proven by a long list of successful students who have reached the world elite of Football,” states the website. “All kind of professionals in all continents have become ambassadors of Marcet philosophy and contribute today to the positive development of football and society wherever they are.”

Gallagher is cautiously optimistic about his future, but said he wouldn’t be where he was today if it wasn’t for the people that have stood by him through thick-and-thin, especially his mom, Paula Gibson-Hernandez, and his goalkeeper coach, Nicholas Goldreich along with another former coach, Javier Wanchope.

“Javier is one of the main reasons I’m still playing at a competitive level,” Gallagher said. “Nick is more than my coach, he’s one of my best friends, a great trainer and someone I trust, and then there’s my mom. She’s been on my side from the very beginning. She has never let me quit, even when there were horrible seasons, and there were. And I wanted to stop. She was there. Always, she’s the real reason I’m playing.”

Gallagher summed up his journey to this point by reiterating the point he made earlier, saying a person cannot do this alone.

“You cannot go through this entire process alone,” he said. “You have to have grit, perseverance, the ability to push through bad times because there are going to be ups and downs. You have to keep at it and you will hit your goals. You just have to keep pushing.”

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.