By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
Zach Klindworth knows some of you. And you might know him, too. It’s possible, even likely, that your lives have intersected somewhere along the line in a life story that begins in Santa Clarita and continues through Valencia High and The Master’s University in Newhall.
If you haven’t heard from Klindworth lately, it might be because he’s in Iceland playing professional soccer and immersing himself in a new culture for the first time.
“To have an opportunity to enjoy another culture, another lifestyle,” Klindworth says, “has been really, really enjoyable.”
Klindworth, The Signal’s 2013 All-SCV Boys Soccer Player of the Year at Valencia, signed with UMFA Alftanes – a fourth division club in Alftanes, Iceland – in February after traveling with an all-star team to Iceland for a slate of exhibitions.
The idea was to earn a contract, and Klindworth did – on the final night of the weeklong trip.
Since April, Klindworth has lived with one of the club’s board members. It’s almost always cloudy with a high chance of rain or hail. He has relished the opportunity, but not without wistful thoughts of home.
“I miss the sun. I miss California beaches. I miss all of that,” he says.
Klindworth does, however, like the slower pace of life that’s offered in a community of roughly 2,400 people. It’s peaceful in Iceland, and most of all, he’s allotted time to perfect his craft.
When Klindworth graduated from Master’s in 2017, after scoring 19 career goals with 35 assists (“tremendous skill coupled with exceptional agility,” says TMU coach Jim Rickard), he spent time playing for the Southern California Seahorses of the Premier Development League. He also took a youth coaching gig at the Santa Clarita Soccer Center, refereeing on the side.
He has continued coaching youth soccer in Iceland, in the mornings before his own practices begin.
Alftanes (pronounced Awlf-ten-ess) trains on Mondays and Fridays with games on Wednesdays. Klindworth uses off days to lift weights and recuperate. He’s fond of saunas, hot tubs and steam baths.
As far as a language barrier (the country’s official language is Icelandic), all of Klindworth’s teammates speak English, some better than others. Most people Klindworth has met speak English, too, but he pointed to a recent situation at a local gym that highlighted lingering challenges in communication.
“The gym lights were on and I went up to one of the desk managers and asked him, ‘Can I shoot some hoops?'” Klindworth recalled. “He was like, ‘Shoot some hoops? What do you mean?’ … I’m like, ‘Basketball. Can I play basketball?’ … He’s like, ‘Oh, basketball. Yeah, you can go play basketball.'”
Klindworth’s play on the pitch started with a bang. He scored in his first game for Alftanes as part of a resounding win. But he’s since seen a decline in playing time.
“The minutes I have been getting, I’ve been doing well and just hope to continue to impress and get more minutes as the season continues,” Klindworth says.
As for what comes next, after Alftanes finishes its season in September, Klindworth is unsure.
His work visa expires around the same time, so he plans to return to California. Maybe he will train with TMU’s men’s team to stay in shape. Maybe he’ll follow up on an opportunity in Spain, or one in Mexico. Maybe Alftanes will bring him back for another go.
What’s clear is that Klindworth will be around the game.
“At the end of the day, I just love playing,” he says. “It really, truly is just a game to me. It used to be an obsession, but it transformed into just a blessing. I really enjoy getting out on a field and doing what the Lord has given me the ability to do.”
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