Apr. 13—BERAZATEGUI, Argentina — On a beautiful March day, more than 100 Argentinian soccer players hoping for a college scholarship listen intently as a fit young man with tattoos peeking underneath his blue polo shirt.
He extols the benefits of playing soccer in the United States, specifically 6,000 miles away at Dakota Wesleyan University, the lone school represented at the camp as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to slam the South American country and has restricted travel.
The man is former DWU goalkeeper Gaston Miteff, who arrived in Mitchell from the Buenos Aires province of Argentina in 2015. Now, Miteff serves as a scout in his home country, tasked with finding potential student-athletes in Latin America that can make the transition to the United States like he did.
"My idea is to provide a service to international students that I did not have when I was recruited," Miteff said. "I was recruited by a coach and an admissions staff, but I was never recruited by a guy who went through the process I went through or the life of going to a completely different one. Having someone with that perspective will be a game-changer."
During his time with the Tigers, Miteff was a two-time Great Plains Conference honorable mention selection after being recruited through the South American recruiting service Camp Scholarship (CAMPSA). Several DWU soccer players have taken the same path, and in 2019, four players from Buenos Aires competed for the school.
CAMPSA is a creation of MatchUp Global — an online recruiting agency for prospective colleges — that hosts camps that draw colleges for potential scholarships. According to CAMPSA's website, 80% of participants receive scholarships and more than 600 have gone on to colleges in the United States.
CAMPSA is not the lone recruiting agency, however, and Miteff's role with DWU is to generate as many contacts as possible stretching from Mexico to Argentina. The agencies make it easy for Miteff, creating highlight videos, academic profiles and admissions requests.
"There's a lot of players in this region that would love to play in the United States," Miteff said. "But sometimes you need to narrow the search. Academic qualifications, athletic qualifications and family background, because not everybody can pay for a school like DWU and that's the reality here, especially in a region where currency is lower."
Following graduation, Miteff worked in the DWU admissions office full-time for a year, with responsibilities in more predominant Spanish-speaking states such as California, Nevada and Texas.
But he reduced it to part-time — while also working in telecommunications full-time — focusing mainly on men's and women's soccer when he returned to Argentina in June 2020. Miteff hopes to eventually branch out to other sports such as basketball and baseball, which are also popular in South America, but most recruiting companies are geared toward soccer, field hockey, rugby and tennis.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic eases and travel restrictions are lifted, Miteff plans to travel to neighboring countries such as Chile and Uruguay to scout players in person, something he prefers more than analyzing videos. In Argentina, he currently has an advantage being the lone representative in the country and recently had a chance to speak at a camp with 150 kids.
"That's when you can really sell the school to a guy," Miteff said. "... We were the only recruiting staff available for questions, not only about school, but about what it's like to be an international student in the United States in general."
Experience as an international student-athlete is what Miteff leans on heavily and is something he believes gives him an edge as a recruiter. He also believes he can turn that into his own service with other schools, specifically with junior colleges for students with financial challenges.
He had little idea of what to expect when he arrived in South Dakota and providing such a perspective on day-to-day life and small cultural changes can help another player make a more informed decision.
Miteff recalls looking around the room in his first class, realizing he was the only student wearing a collared shirt. More formal dress was normal in Argentinian schools, but not for American college students hoping to maximize sleep before a morning class.
"My job would be to work for the schools as a middle man between CAMPSA and all the recruiting services to facilitate the admissions process," Miteff said. "For the admissions office not to have to worry about international recruiting in Latin America. Knowing how things operate in this part of the world would be beneficial for the kids and also the recruiting companies. It would be a win-win situation for all parties involved."