By Benjamin Wideman / Sports Information Director
MANITOWOC, Wis. — When it comes to soccer, the Pineda Funes family is certainly making a name for itself at Silver Lake College.Cesar Pineda Funes, a 25-year-old sophomore, serves as co-captain for the men's soccer team, which has a 5-2-1 record this season thanks in part to his scoring and leadership. Last year, Cesar earned team MVP honors and helped the Lakers finish 10-2 in their first season of men's soccer.
"Cesar shows maturity and dedication both on and off the field," men's coach Bob Jeffrey said. "He is a highly talented soccer player and shows great skill and intelligence. He is a pleasure to work with and shows true captain qualities whether in practice or game play."
Meanwhile, Cesar's older sister, Jannin Pineda Funes, a 27-year-old sophomore, has fought through injuries to be a key starter on the women's soccer team, which is midway through its inaugural campaign.
"Jannin brings an attacking presence to the midfield and also a great defensive mindset," women's coach Lexi Gauger said. "She has improved her defense in the last few weeks to become one of our best one-on-one defenders. She is very hard-working and will give it her all even with an injury. Jannin is willing to put in the extra practice to make sure she is getting better at every aspect of her game."
But Cesar and Jannin share much more than a love for soccer and their status as the only brother-sister duo competing in athletics at Silver Lake College.
The siblings were born in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras in Central America. Their childhood neighborhood witnessed its share of crime — Cesar was robbed multiple times, and gangs tried unsuccessfully to recruit him. Jannin said they were afraid to go to certain parts of the city. The family didn't have much money.
And while in elementary school in 1998, their country — which is smaller than Wisconsin — suffered a devastating blow from Hurricane Mitch, which unleashed more than 70 inches of rain in some areas. The hurricane killed about 7,000 people, left 1 million people homeless and caused more than $2 billion in damage, which has ripple effects still being felt today. Thankfully for the Pineda Funes family, they all survived and their home suffered only minor damage.
Through it all, the brother and sister have persevered, thanks in part by diverting their attention to sports and seeking better opportunities in life as they got older.
Cesar and Jannin loved playing sports when they were young — just not the sport you'd imagine.
Their father, Cesar, played professional soccer in Honduras for the famed Motagua team in Tegucigalpa. But he moved to the United States when his children were young. So his namesake, Cesar, instead grew up playing baseball, the second-most popular sport in Honduras behind soccer. Cesar picked up a glove at the age of 5 because his best friend played baseball. Cesar played shortstop and admired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
Not long after Cesar started playing baseball, so did Jannin.
"I saw him playing and I asked my mom (Beatriz) if I could play too, so we asked a coach and he said I could," said Jannin, who played on a different team than Cesar. She primarily played center field and second base and was the only girl on her team.
Cesar continued excelling at baseball, even traveling to play games in neighboring countries, until the age of 13. That's when a soccer coach happened to see Cesar playing baseball and recommended that he give soccer a try.
"Coach Calero said he was impressed with my speed," Cesar said. "After he saw me play soccer a little bit he said I had really good skills even though I hadn't really played before. I just learned my moves from playing with friends and watching games on TV. And sometimes I'd stay after practice for extra training with my coach."
From then on, baseball was in the rear view mirror and it was full speed ahead with soccer. Jannin stopped playing baseball at about that time as well and started playing soccer casually with friends. She said she mostly played in games with and against boys.
Cesar played for Olympia's C Division team in Tegucigalpa until he was 17 years old, at which time he opted to only play soccer casually with friends in local tournaments.
About the time Cesar graduated from high school and started working as a locksmith, Jannin was packing her bags.
At their respective ages of 22 — Jannin first and Cesar two years later — each of them left Honduras and flew to the United States, where there father was still living in south Florida.
"I wanted to go to college, study and get a degree," Jannin said. "I knew I would have more opportunities than if I had stayed home. I did it for my future."
Since Jannin arrived first, she ended up helping Cesar when he arrived in the United States two years later. Neither spoke English when they left Honduras, so they spent much of their first several months in this country taking English classes.
Throughout that time, each of them played soccer casually but not on any official teams. In fact, this is the first year Jannin has ever played on an organized soccer team.
While taking English classes at Broward College in Davie, Fla., Cesar met Joel Mejia, a native of El Salvador, and they played together on a weekend soccer team in that area. Joel and his friend Freddie Mendoza, another Honduras native, ended up transferring to Silver Lake College in the summer of 2015, and the following year they convinced Cesar to join them at Silver Lake College.
Cesar said he enjoyed his soccer experience last year. He also appreciated the strong support from Silver Lake College faculty and staff — so much so that he encouraged Jannin and his friend Bruno Asca Rosas of Peru (another SLC men's soccer player) to attend college here this year.
Cesar and Jannin both possess fancy footwork skills with a soccer ball, but they share similarities off the field as well.
Both are majoring in computer science — Cesar has his sights on becoming a video game developer, while Jannin is pursuing a career in information technology. And both love playing video games — they share an interest in "Call of Duty" games, but Jannin likes soccer video games more than Cesar.
When it comes to professional soccer players, they both admire Ronaldinho and share a disdain for Cristiano Ronaldo. Cesar's favorite player is Lionel Messi, while Jannin's favorites are Carli Lloyd and Marta.
When they aren't playing soccer or studying, Cesar works in campus security (and at a local auto business, time permitting), while Jannin works in campus admissions.
Jannin said she's happy she and Cesar are attending classes and participating in athletics at Silver Lake College.
"For us, it's a great opportunity to play college soccer and get a really good education," she said. "I like being here."
PHOTO: Cesar Pineda Funes and his sister, Jannin Pineda Funes, share a love of soccer and computer science. Photo illustration by Benjamin Wideman