Soccer club teammates remember Vasquez as joyful player

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KTVU) -- The sadness over the death of Cal student-athlete Eloi Vasquez in Los Angeles this past weekend spans the Bay Area, north to south.

As his friends from Marin Academy and teammates at Cal absorb the loss, so do members of the DeAnza Force Soccer Club, the elite program where he played his final two years of high school.

"We spent a lot of time together, we trained almost every day," coach Eric Yamamoto told KTVU, on the field at Santa Clara University, where he coached Vasquez until last June.

"The one thing about Eloi is, his mentality was outstanding, a very humble guy," said Yamamoto sadly. "I think he was a great example of how special family was, what it means to be a good person, and special life can be."

For kids who show early promise, soccer can be all-consuming and hyper-competitive.

But those who watched Vasquez develop, say he always stayed genuine and never took anything for granted,

Commuting from Marin County to Santa Clara after school required his doing homework in the car, but he never complained about the three hour round trip

"He was very committed to getting better," noted Yamamoto, "and he did everything that he could. He sacrificed, and he worked to be able to pay for gas and take the expense off his family."

Two former teammates from the Force shared their own memories.

"Eloi was a great kid, none of us know what happened, what he was thinking," mused Brandon Gillingham, mystified by how Vasquez wandered from a USC frat party onto an interstate freeway more than a mile away.

"I remember him on this field," reflected Edson Cardona. "And I can just see him running around, playing, smiling, touching the ball."

He played, they said, with the joy of a child.

"Being on his team made you cherish soccer," observed Cardona. "He was such a great footballer. He loved the sport and he cherished it."

Both the San Jose Earthquakes and the L.A. Galaxy tweeted condolences to the family and friends of Vasquez.

He dreamed of playing professionally, and those who knew him wouldn't have been surprised had that happened.

"He wouldn't quit," said Gillingham. "He had that extra fire to score the goal."

Losing someone so special, so needlessly, gives young people reason to pause.

"Obviously, it's a big lesson to stick together, and not wander out, especially if you don't know the area. And always bring a buddy," pondered Gillingham.

Good advice that comes too late for Eloi Vasquez, but perhaps in time to save others like him.