The 1995 Disney Movie The Big Green follows the classic sports underdog formula. While learning to play a sport—in this case soccer—a group of scrappy, misfit school kids builds self-esteem, discovers the importance of teamwork, and in the end defeats a team of snobby young athletes coached by an authoritarian who paces the sidelines like a four-star general. The movie also teaches another important lesson showcased in many Disney films, that you can’t judge a book by its cover. In one early scene, a few of the kids tease their classmate, a shy, young Mexican boy with shaggy black hair. When they question his athleticism, he grabs a soccer ball and puts on a show worthy of Pelé. He immediately becomes the team’s star player.
Today, the shaggy hair is cut short, and the wiry frame is toned and muscular, but Anthony Esquivel can still handle a soccer ball with both grace and authority. “I was thirteen when I was picked to be in that movie, and it was a great experience,” Anthony says. “It’s just another example of how soccer has impacted my life.”
Growing up in Texas, Anthony was a soccer phenom. He was a high school All American and played in some of the most prestigious tournaments in the country. His talent landed him scholarships from some of the country’s top schools including Notre Dame, Indiana, and Ohio State, and a small school almost no one in Anthony’s hometown of San Antonio had ever heard of. “At the time Furman wasn’t a big name,” Anthony says. “I only knew about it because it was ranked in the top fifteen for college soccer. So me being ultra-competitive and looking to play at the highest level I could play, I chose Furman.” During Anthony’s four years at Furman (1999–2002), the soccer team was ranked in the top ten each year. In his senior year, Anthony was selected team MVP as well as conference MVP.
After graduation, Anthony returned to Texas to coach at the largest youth soccer club in the country. “It was an easy transition for me to go from player to coach,” he says. “And I found that I loved coaching and helping kids.” But as Anthony moved up the club’s corporate ladder and his responsibilities expanded, he found he was spending more time working with budgets and reports than with kids. It was around this same time that Anthony reconnected with a fellow Furman alum named Olivia de Castro who was dividing her time between Greenville and Miami. Neither was satisfied to carry on a long-distance relationship, so in 2011 Anthony and Olivia decided to make Greenville their home. “We talked about other cities,” Anthony says. “But we loved Greenville and felt it was a great place to raise a family.”
Back in Greenville, Anthony accepted a position with Furman as assistant soccer coach and was soon promoted to associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. At the same time Olivia, who had served as public relations coordinator for the Greenville Hospital System, was busy growing her own company, A Public Affair PR. Despite working full time the couple were constantly on the lookout for new opportunities and ways to positively impact the Greenville community. In 2015, Anthony and Olivia, along with the Table 301 restaurant group, launched Southern Pressed Juicery in downtown Greenville. A year later Anthony resigned from Furman with a new business idea in mind: a state-of-the-art indoor soccer facility.
“It’s an Opportunity for people to come together and play who might not have crossed paths before.”
Opened in August in the Berea community, COPA Indoor Soccer is the only premium indoor soccer facility in the Greenville area. On any given evening soccer enthusiasts of all ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds take to the COPA field to compete, work on their skills, stay in shape, and most importantly have a good time. “It’s a way for us to reach all of the communities and have them feel safe,” Olivia says. “It’s an opportunity for people to come together and play who might have not crossed paths before.” COPA also offers various leagues including men’s, women’s, co-ed, and youth, and Anthony is available for private as well as small group training. “Soccer is a universal language in the world,” Anthony says. “Anybody from anywhere can play. It is one of those games that is very inclusive.”
In the coming months, Anthony and Olivia hope to expand COPA into a community center that serves the needs of the surrounding area. They are working with schools, community resource providers, and businesses to discover how COPA can become a hub for community events. “That’s a big part of why we located it here in Berea,” Anthony says. “We want to show that you can come to this area, have a successful business, and have a positive impact on the community.”
Anthony and Olivia’s passion for COPA is fueled by their entrepreneurial spirit. The same spirit that brought to life Southern Pressed Juicery, a business built on the concepts of health and vitality, where one of the top selling juices, a mixture of apple, spinach, parsley, celery, and lemon, is appropriately named The Big Green.