Grandfather inspires soccer player’s dream

It has been 12 years since one of SF State’s men’s soccer players returned to the country where his passion for soccer began.  

Born in Ventanilla, Peru, Richard Léon moved with his family to the U.S. when he was six years old.

While Léon’s family shares a love of soccer, he credits his grandfather with imbuing him with motivation and inspiration to play the game.

“I was very close to my grandma and grandpa back in Peru,” Léon said. “My grandpa used to play soccer. He taught me how to play when I was a little kid. He would take me everywhere he went. He was a really big influence.”

Moving from Peru to San Francisco had its share of struggles.

“It was challenging trying to learn a new language and everything,” Léon said. “But I really missed my grandparents. It was hard.”

Léon is a freshman forward for the SF State men’s soccer team and is off to a hot start in his career. He currently leads the team in goals scored and is ranked top 5 in goals scored in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Léon has also contributed with three game-winning goals and describes each one as memorable and crazy.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Léon said.

Léon’s transition from high school and club soccer to college has been smooth so far. He prepared for the season by playing with the San Jose Earthquakes academy team.

“The transition for me was easy. I learned a lot there, and we played a similar style to the one here,” Léon said. “We trained every day for two hours and traveled a lot. It was hard doing that in high school but it prepared me for college.”

His preparation and demeanor hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Gators coaching staff.

“Richard is having a fantastic first season,” head coach Javier Ayala-Hil said. “He plays with ease. Nothing seems to faze him. He finds ways to put the ball in the back of the net. Those are some intangibles you can’t teach. That’s in him.”

Despite being a freshman, Léon has started to influence his teammates with his performance on the field.

“He pushes himself to better –– you can see that,” said junior forward Ranier Plantinos. “He pushes me as well because he’s the top goal scorer on the team, and I want to try and get that.”

Off the field, Léon is majoring in mechanical engineering with hopes of one day working with cars. His teammates, coaches and staff describe him as a quiet, keep to himself kind of guy.

Léon believes he can develop into an all-conference player later down his career and lead the Gators to multiple winning seasons.

“I want to become SF State’s top goal scorer,” Léon said. “And as a team, I want to win a championship, go to nationals and win it.”

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