South River’s Miranda living the dream on soccer field

Photo credit: Marlboro Warriors Nark Miranda, right, has developed into one of the best soccer players in South River High School history. Miranda moved to the United States with his family from Brazil when he was 7 years old.

By Jimmy Allinder

Nark Miranda enters his senior year as one of the best soccer players to ever wear a South River High School uniform.

But before he steps onto the pitch to play for the Rams, Miranda has other business to attend to, like playing for the Marlboro Warriors U17 team when it travels to Aurora, Colorado, July 22-25, and compete for the U.S. Club National Cup Championship.

It’s already been a life filled with special moments for Miranda since he and his family arrived in the United States from Brazil when he was 7 years old. The opportunity to play the sport he loves for a national title in Colorado is just the most recent chapter in Miranda living the American Dream.

The prologue, however, was somewhat inauspicious. Miranda remembers when his family, and distant cousin who came to the U.S. earlier, were the only people he knew. To compound his trepidation, Portuguese was the only language he understood.

“It was tough at first, because I didn’t speak English and didn’t understand the culture or know any people,” Miranda said. “Fortunately, my cousin introduced me to life [here] and things became easier [as time passed].”

Miranda looks back and shakes his head as he reflects on the good fortune that has followed him.

“It began with my parents’ decision to give me a better life,” he said. “Since we arrived [here], many doors have opened and we’ve worked hard to earn a good life. To this day, I consider their decision to immigrate to the U.S. as the most cherished memory in my life.”

Miranda has capitalized on his own opportunities. He worked extra hard in elementary and middle school to learn English and earn solid grades. Combined with his work ethic and intelligence, Miranda became the model student in high school.

As he enters his senior year, Miranda’s grade-point average is 4.2 out of five, he is ranked 25 out of a class of 139 and he says he might commit to Fairleigh Dickinson University-Teaneck in the fall.

“My goal is to reach the highest level of the sport,” said the striker for the Rams, who finished 14-8-2 last fall. “It’s a process to get to the professional level, and I know it will require more hard work and success along the way.”

An impressive cast of coaches believe Miranda, whose nickname is Junior, is capable of achieving that goal.

“I have coached Junior for the last three years and look forward to another productive year from him,” South River coach Eric Clays said. “It gets down to simple math [geometry] as to why he’s so intelligent on the pitch. He sees [angles] on the entire field and decides what to do with the ball based on the best scoring opportunity.”

“I have coached for 17 years in New Jersey and over 400 players who have gone on to college,” Frank Rizzo, who will accompany Miranda and the Marlboro U17 team to Colorado, said. “Junior’s size, speed and technical ability are very promising, and his passion, love for the game and Brazilian heritage will take him very far.”

Murray Karp, another Marlboro coach, says Miranda is the most unselfish player on the field.

“He’s scored some great goals and made some equally amazing passes,” Karp said. “Besides being a great player, Junior is a special person. He’s going to be successful whatever he does.”

Of course, it helps to have unconditional support from his family.

“My mother [Jakeline] and father [Nark] have always been there for me,” said Miranda, who also has a brother, Matheus. “Not only have they brought me to countless practices and games, but [they] have motivated me to give nothing but my best. I owe a lot to them.”

Miranda’s progress as a student comes as a result of the same mentality he applies to soccer.

“Soccer and school can be difficult and sometimes frustrating,” he said. “There are days I have a lot of homework besides a game. But I get through everything and then sleep as much as possible.”

Among the many friends Miranda has made is teammate Jonathan Franco. He considers the fellow senior another brother.

“We have played alongside each other for three years and no matter the situation, ‘JJ’ motivates me on and off the pitch,” Miranda said. “It’s very possible we could play in college together, and that would be exciting.”

Perhaps the most important reason Miranda enjoys playing soccer in his adopted country is the serenity that dominates his soul when he steps onto the field.

“All my worries are gone,” he said. “I block out everything and become a different person.”

Living the dream.

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