MISSION, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Sharyland girls soccer coach Mario Ribera grew up in Bolivia, hoping he could find a path to a better life.

“Life in third world countries is difficult,” Ribera said. “Bolivia, we don’t have opportunities for us to go to school, to go to college. Soccer was a vehicle.”

A standout soccer player in his native country, Ribera represented Bolivia in international youth tournaments, including the 1987 FIFA Under-16 World Championship in Canada.

“Canada 1987, that gave me opportunity to come to the United States” Ribera said. “I was able to go to college and graduated from UTPA.

Ribera, who is a Spanish teacher at Sharyland, was still learning English when he came to the U.S. to live with a host family.

He’s grateful for the opportunities given to him in the United States.

“Being able to learn a second language in this country has given me opportunity to share not with only athletes, but with students, that education gives us a better life overall,” Ribera said.

The former UTPA soccer star was inducted into UTRGV’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.