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All-Area Player of the Year: Soccer Cibrian's vehicle for life
On the day he left his native country, Hector Cibrian did what he always does when he's feeling like things are starting to fall apart around him — he played soccer.
In a small neighborhood located in Mascota, Jalisco, Cibrian wanted to spend his final day in Mexico with his friends on the local pitch, a Sunday tradition that began when he was first "able to walk and keep my balance."
On the long plane ride from Guadalajara to San Jose, a 10-year-old Cibrian cried as he contemplated life in a new country. A country where he didn't know the language or customs.
"Why should I come here?" It's the question he kept asking his mother Maria as the Cibrian family completed their journey to America, settling in Live Oak in 2003.
On his first day of school, Cibrian was approached by four classmates, who asked him if he wanted to play some soccer at recess. He would have loved to — if he understood what they were asking.
When Cibrian finally made the connection that his native sport of futbol was known by another name in his new home, he started to come around to the idea that things in America weren't so bad.
"It was cool. The first thing I did at school (in America) was play soccer," Cibrian said. "That's the one thing I love the most."
He started to gain a reputation. In whatever soccer community Cibrian has been a part of, that reputation has been linked to scoring.
At 8 years old he scored his first goal in a recreation league — playing against 15-year-olds.
"It was just inside the left post," Cibrian said. "I started going crazy and jumping up and down."
During Cibrian's 8th grade year, Live Oak High coach Mike Owen kept hearing from his students about "this Cibrian kid."
One year later, in 2008 as a freshman, Cibrian delivered Owen a Northern Section championship.
Now 17, Live Oak High's senior captain and forward ended his prep career with 99 career goals, a section championship, and a possible scholarship to Chico State.
For his accomplishments, Cibrian has been selected as the Appeal-Democrat's boys soccer Player of the Year.
From kicking the ball back and forth with his father Hector in their backyard in Mascota, to his game-tying goal in the Northern Section title game in 2008, Cibrian has engulfed his life in the sport.
"He was special from the get-go," Owen said. "He was always the first guy there (at practice) and the last guy to leave. He wants to be the best and wants the guys around him to be the best."
As a freshman in 2008, he led the Lions with 17 goals and matched that his sophomore season. He scored 25 goals as a junior and ended the 2010-11 season with 40 scores.
Cibrian credited his former teammate, Rene Cuellar, for helping him come out of his shell that first season with the Lions. Cuellar, a senior that year, took Cibrian under his wing and told him that his age didn't matter.
With his team trailed 2-1 in that section title game, Cibrian jumped out of a group of players in front of the goal on a corner kick and tied the game on a header. The Lions eventually won the game in extra time, 3-2.
"Nobody expected Live Oak to win the championship," Cibrian said. "I think the school started getting into soccer after that. Before that year, five people would come to our games."
One of those five was his Hector's father, who rarely missed a match, home or away, in Cibrian's four-year tenure with the Lions.
On the day the Cibrian family was traveling to America, Hector asked his parents, "Why should I come here?" His father told him he wanted his children to have the best opportunity to succeed in life.
That's why Cibrian stays after practice, working on dribbling, shooting, and conditioning. That's why he hasn't let his GPA dip below a 3.3 in four years. And that's why he is well on his way to securing a scholarship to play soccer at Chico State.
He wants to repay his parents for the opportunity they gave him.
"I always wanted to make them happy and feel proud of me," Cibrian said. "It's time to do my part and help them out."
When he takes the field this spring with his Atlas Academy club team in Sacramento, Cibrian will feel the pressure of scouts watching his every move, analyzing his skills.
The kid who made an international move, learned a new language and dominated the Northern Section for four years, will fall back on the sport that has been a cathartic experience for him since his youth.
"I forget about everything," Cibrian said. "The surroundings, the problems, school, family, everything. I'm just all about the game. Just focused on playing with friends, the ball, scoring goals — that's it."