Early last week, recently retired FC Dallas midfielder Oscar Pareja and his family returned to their native Colombia to celebrate the holidays. This is a trip that the Pareja family had made on many past occasions, but there was one intrinsic difference in this most recent trip.
This time, the Pareja's were traveling as American citizens.
Eight years after coming to the United States and MLS, Pareja, his wife Sandra and their three children officially became American citizens earlier this month. Pareja, who ranks second in Dallas history in all-time games played, first came to the Metroplex in August 1998 after a short stint in New England. However, in the wake of that first season, especially the first three months on the East Coast, Pareja never envisioned himself being at the point he is today.
"When I came here for the first time, living in Boston, it was a very difficult and uncomfortable situation," Pareja said. "We didn't know anybody, didn't speak English and to make it worse, the team wasn't doing well, so at that point I really didn't think that I would be in America for that long and I was expecting to go back (to Colombia) at the end of the year."
"But then the opportunity to come to Dallas appeared and it's all worked out since then," he said. "I came here and was able to fit in right away, I got along with the people, I started to learn English and I started to make a life for myself. Every year after that was a little bit different and little bit better, and now we really have a life here."
And now that life is complete with an American passport for Pareja and his family as they are now American citizens, and nothing could make him prouder.
"It was a long process but we are so happy to now be Americans," he said. "We're very comfortable now, we love all the people in Dallas, and because we are able to keep duel-nationalities, we still are Colombian and American citizens. Our kids were born here so they are Colombian and American so for Sandra and I, we are both just so proud to now be American. This country has been great to us and we are just so happy here."