Indian American soccer star Gabriel Patel, 7, of Staten Island, N.Y. has wowed his coach Sandy Rapaglia, an experienced coach who has worked at many different levels of U.S. soccer.
“I’ve been coaching for 30 years at every level and have coached seven national team players so it takes a lot to excite me,” Rapaglia is quoted saying in silive.com. ”Gabe is extraordinarily talented, more importantly, he is extremely committed,” said the award-winning coach who met Patel when he was only 4-years-old through his father Tolstoy Patel, who is a coach for the Cedar Stars in the grassroots level from ages 3-8.
“I was watching him play and was like ‘where did he learn how to do this,’ the way he was striking the ball, his muscle memory was just much advanced for his age,” Rapaglia added.
A St. George resident, Patel has competed in the Barcelona Easter Tournament for the past two years and was the only soccer player from New York to represent team USA in the under-8 division as he was a hit with his goal-making skills while the U-8 team finished strong with three closing wins and a combination of 12 goals.
“Playing in that tournament made me feel really good. It was surprising but it was a nice tournament,” Patel told silive.com.
“It’s an honor and great representation for Staten Island; he was the first kid from Staten Island to go to Barcelona in this tournament. That’s a huge privilege,” his father added.
Despite being just 8 years old, Patel appears to have shown up his father and other coaches that success comes from hard work.
“He has me out there on the field at seven in the morning in the summer. He knows when I’m off and plans his day around that. He has this tremendous drive and it really impresses me,” his father explains as he recalls a moment when his son was playing on the soccer field on Father Capodanno Boulevard, “I was just sitting there watching him and all I could hear was him kicking the ball, the birds chirping and the waves in the background.”
“It really impressed me that this is a kid who just does things on his own. The kid has such a drive and the fact that he’s out there at seven in the morning in the summer is incredible. I haven’t seen a kid at this age with this commitment,” Rapaglia added.
Patel thinks that going out to practice soccer in the summer is fun, unlike most kids his age who would prefer to go out and play with friends.
“I wake up my dad in the morning and just go out and try to be a better player. I always have more to learn and I want to be the best player I can be. My dad means a lot to me. I get better practicing with him and developing my skills,” said Patel.