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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The left winger: Family, friends remember Santa Fe High School athlete

The sophomore died Nov. 22

With his heart racing, chest pounding and eyes locked in, Anthony Arambula darted downfield, fighting for the ball. He gave everything for the sport he loved most: soccer.

Just a few weeks later, tears streamed down the faces of family and friends at the Santa Fe High School football field as they joined together to celebrate Anthony’s life Tuesday.

Anthony, a sophomore at Santa Fe High School, died at 16 on Nov. 22. 

Paul Richardson, a Santa Fe soccer coach, worked with him four times a week on the field

“The good thing about Anthony is you could kind of use him as a wildcard,” Richardson said. “He was versatile in many different positions.”

Courtesy_Anthony.jpg

Anthony, a left winger for Santa Fe High School, moved up to the varsity level to conclude the 2020-2021 season and stayed there this season.

Richardson said Anthony  was honest with himself and his mistakes. The coach wishes he could’ve watched him become an even better player. 

“If he messed up or he did something incorrectly, he always wanted to make it better,” Richardson said. “He made us feel like we might be doing something good as coaches.” 

Growing up, Anthony wanted to pursue a career in STEM, focusing on marine biology. That aspiration soon dissolved as he was introduced to sports.

As a kid in football, he moved around on offense — quarterback, fullback, general running back. He stuck with linebacker on  defense and specialized in the position in high school.

He yearned to become a professional athlete, either in soccer or football. A Miami native, Anthony dreamed of attending the University of Miami to play football because the university does not offer a Division 1 men’s soccer team.

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Countless hours dedicated to playing basketball, soccer, tennis and football defined his life since he was 6, said Anthony’s father, Jonathan Arambula.

Jonathan holds on tight to memories he made when his son was little. He’ll always remember holding Anthony in his arms night after night carrying him to bed. Jonathan would do it forever if he could, he said

His mother, Angela Arambula, said he used to fall asleep twirling her hair. She would laugh as she combed her untangled hair later in the night. He started twirling his own hair as he grew older.

“[He was] my sunshine,” Angela said.

Santa Fe High School organized a vigil for Anthony Nov. 23. About 150 students, teachers, friends and family gathered on the field. Poster boards with his portrait on them were passed around the bleachers for everyone to sign and 16 candles circulated around the crowd. 

Although hesitant to go, Jonathan and Angela attended the vigil to be present for everyone who knew their son.

“As soon as I crossed the gate from the concession stands, I felt like tearing up,” Jonathan said.

The family paused on the stand’s walkway to hug one another before they sat on the bleachers. The vigil helped their 13-year-old daughter, Isabella Arambula, cope with loss.

“It showed [Isabella] how many people’s lives he touched — how many people loved him,” he said.

He was in a state of shock until later in the week when he had a complete breakdown.

Anthony’s cousin, 16-year-old Santa Fe junior Adrian Roman, held a strong bond with him as they played soccer recreationally and on the high school team. 

When Adrian would get flustered on the soccer field, Anthony always reminded him it was just a game.

Aside from seeing each other at school every day, the two often hung out, playing Call of Duty, Minecraft and FIFA together.

When Anthony passed, many students thought it wasn’t real. Roman was bombarded with texts asking if the news was true, he said. But he had to be the bearer of bad news.

A viewing was held Sunday. The school is offering counseling on site and a public funeral will be held at Holy Family Catholic Church in Williston on Monday at 11 a.m. It will be an open casket.  

The Gainesville Soccer Alliance is also creating a scholarship in dedication to Anthony. It will offer financial aid to a recipient that mirrors Anthony’s characteristics on and off the field, his father said.

Contact Faith Buckley at fbuckley@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @_faithbuckley.

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