Andrew Kartunen: Beyond Soccer

Oct. 24, 2005

By Jeane Goff, Media Relations Assistant

Like many Stanford athletes, Andrew Kartunen works very hard to maintain his athletics, schoolwork, and a thriving social life. Thus far, he has succeeded in finding balance.

Kartunen has found a niche in soccer, committing to play for Stanford before his senior year in high school had even begun. Since then, he has started 23 games for the Cardinal.

For the last two years, Kartunen has been playing with the U.S. Under-20 team, preparing for the World Youth Championships in June 2005. Training with the U-20 team was an extensive process of identifying players to form a team that could represent the U.S. well at the World Cup in the Netherlands.

'Playing with the U-20 team was nice for me because I was part of the core group throughout the last two years,' explains Kartunen. 'It was an amazing experience for me and I took a lot away from it. The athletes and coaches were all very professional and critical to helping me make the jump to the next level.'

Kartunen spent all of June in the Netherlands during World Cup competition. The U.S. U-20 team went on to win its pool, beating Argentina and Egypt and tying Germany, 0-0. The team lost in the next round to top-seeded Italy.

'It was a big accomplishment for the U.S.,' says Kartunen. 'We had never beaten Argentina before, so we were proud. But at the same time, we were disappointed because we lost to Italy in a game in which we felt we had the upper hand.'

In addition to playing in the Netherlands, in the last year Kartunen has traveled to South Korea twice, as well as making two domestic trips with the U-20 squad.

'Playing in Holland during the World Cup was the best experience because of the atmosphere,' says Kartunen. 'The whole country was so involved in one event. It was special to walk through the streets and have people know who we were. You don't see that in the U.S. where other sports are more popular than soccer.

'South Korea was an experience because I had never been to Asia before-it was totally different playing there. There were a lot fewer people attending, but the people embraced the game with a lot of emotion. They loved Americans and were extremely friendly in the streets.'

Due to such a rigorous training and traveling schedule with the U-20 team, Kartunen had to make a tough decision to stop out of school. Both the decision to stop out of classes and the process of leaving were stressful.

'It was important for me to not fall behind in my academics,' explained Kartunen. 'It was just too much to attempt to travel and take classes at the same time. I would have missed eight out of ten weeks of class in the spring. Once I realized my status on the team, that I had a solid chance of playing abroad, the decision to stop out of school was easier.'

Kartunen's experience at Stanford revolves around more than just soccer. He has always had passionate interests outside of athletics. In addition to his teammates, Kartunen places great value on his friends and roommates at Stanford.

'I like to spend a lot of time with friends. They're quality people that I have learned a lot from. There are so many interesting people at Stanford. I would be cheating myself if I only limited myself to soccer. I enjoy my core group of friends, and they all offer a unique perspective.'

Kartunen enjoys venturing away from campus with friends, getting outdoors while hiking and watching sunsets on the beach, which reminds him of home. He also cites eating at restaurants as one of his favorite things to do.

'My favorite restaurant in the area is Umbria in San Francisco. It's as authentic Italian as you can get here, and my Italian professor's brother owns the place.'

Kartunen has carried an avid love for the Red Sox with him from home, despite growing up in Southern California: 'My dad's family is from Boston, so as I kid I would attend one or two games every summer at Fenway. I adopted the fans' and my Dad's love for the team. I also learned about 'The Curse' as a kid, so it was exciting and satisfying to see them finally do so well last year. Attending a game at Fenway among such passionate fans is like no where else in the country.'

Music serves as yet another passion for Kartunen. He cites U2 as his all-time favorite group, already attending one concert back in San Diego. He has plans to see U2 again in Oakland, between games versus San Diego State and California.

'I'm not sure how I got into U2, but I fell in love. I really enjoy going to concerts of all sorts. Growing up in high school, I went to a lot of concerts at the House of Blues where my sister worked. I saw a lot of small Southern California bands there. Music is a passion, and there's hardly a time when I'm not listening to music-when I'm allowed to.'

Kartunen plans to take soccer as far as possible, hopefully playing in Germany or Holland after college. He also realizes soccer won't always be an option, and hopes to attend medical school someday en route to becoming an orthopedic doctor or family practitioner.

'My mom is a nurse at an oncology center, administering chemotherapy to patients. Her passion to help people get healthy has inspired me to do the same. Also, experiencing all of my injuries has made me want to help others avoid them.'

Watch for Kartunen in the goal for the Cardinal this season, or perhaps at a U2 concert or local eatery.

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