MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Soccer is played all over the world from Kandhahar, Afghanistan to Atlanta. Since the 1990 World Cup when the United States entered its team in the competition after a 40-year absence, soccer has become a popular sport in America.
“I love soccer because it’s a universal language. You don’t have to know the other team’s native tongue to play a game with them,” said Lance Cpl. Baldemar Pardo, administrative clerk, with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
The 1999 All-Defense Player of Southeast Texas was born in Texas but later moved to Reynosa, Mexico with his family as a young child.
“I played baseball in Mexico but it wasn’t until I moved back to America, that I started playing soccer,” the 1999 McAllen Memorial High School graduate explained.
Pardo and his family then moved to McAllen, Texas when he was 15. His family wanted what was best for their son and felt it was time to move.
“My parents wanted me to have a good education,” said the son of Luz M. Pardo and Jose A. Alaniz.
Pardo began his time at McAllen Memorial High School at the age of 15 knowing very little of the English language.
“I was faced with challenges, as an immigrant normally is, but I overcame them by adapting, just like Marines have to adapt in the Marine Corps to overcome challenges,” Pardo said.
He started playing semi-professional soccer for a team in Reynosa, Mexico, but had to quit because of high school soccer rules. Pardo traveled with his family to Michigan during the summer to work in the fields after his first year of school in Texas.
“We would pick strawberries on a farm to earn extra money,” Pardo said.
He quickly became friends with the farm’s owner and close friends with the owner’s children.
“That’s how I found out about Michigan State,” said the captain of the Camp Lejeune Varsity soccer team.
The owner’s children attended Michigan State, and Pardo watched the exhibition games with his friends. While at the games he met Michigan State’s soccer coach, which would later earn him a full scholarship to the college.
“My high school coach passed away when I was finishing high school so I had to contact Michigan State’s coach myself by writing letters and e-mailing him as much as possible.”
Earning the 1999 All-Defense Player of Southeast Texas helped him to earn a full scholarship to Michigan State University the following year.
His time at Michigan State ended early when his mother and father divorced and he felt he was needed at home more.
“She needed help financially so I dropped out of college to help her out,” Pardo explained.
He started working as a technical-support supervisor at a nationwide, television company and attended a local community college part-time. He joined the Marine Corps where he returned to soccer once his mother was financially secure.
“I didn’t really play much after college, and it wasn’t until I became a Marine that I started getting serious again,” he said.
Pardo wanted to be here because he had friends at the base. Once he found out that soccer was a popular sport on base, he got excited about it again.
“I saw an ad placed in the base newspaper asking for anyone to tryout for the Camp Lejeune soccer team.”
Last year Pardo was the captain and mid-fielder for the Camp Lejeune varsity soccer team, a club team that plays in the North Carolina State Cup, where his team made it to the quarterfinals in 2005.
The athlete also helped coach the MCCS Paradise Point youth soccer team during the summers in North Carolina with Master Gunnery Sergeant Luis Zisneros, the motor transportation chief for Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
Pardo’s advice is for more than his youth team, and goes beyond just soccer.
“I tell Marines to find a past-time like soccer so they can find a way to keep themselves focused and out of trouble,” the soccer player said.
Pardo also stayed focused by trying to finish his college degree in education. He plans on becoming a Spanish teacher and a high school soccer coach when he finishes his time in the Corps.
The Marine who was once a semi-professional soccer player with a full scholarship came from a poor upbringing. His family wanted him to have a better life and he later became a man who dreamed, but stayed focused until his goals were completed.
“I always tell people to never give up on their goals. I’m 26 years old, but I will be going to a private college soon. We hit bumps in life, but we have to know where we are going.”