With a captivating smile and giving nature, Joseph Cairel had a way of drawing the world to him. Now a stunned soccer community is struggling to figure out how to live without him.
“It’s overwhelming how many lives my kid touched,” said Artie Cairel on July 21, four days after his son, Joseph, was buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Livermore. He was 29 years old.
Joseph, a Granada High graduate, was an electrifying player last season for the Ontario Fury in the Major Arena Soccer League — a free agent midfielder with crazy socks, flowing brown hair and sparkling eyes. Fans gravitated to him.
Sadly, Joseph, nicknamed “The Jet,” perished in a drowning accident in Indian Slough near Discovery Bay. He went missing on Friday night, June 26 — his birthday — and was found two days later by a sheriff’s dive team. His dad shared the heartbreaking news on Facebook on June 28: “He is now on God’s team. I love you son. Rest in Peace.”
Tributes have been pouring in from Joseph’s many friends, admirers, and pro and college teammates. Through all the pain, the Cairel family feels blessed and appreciative of how Joseph lived his life.
“We believe in God, and God needed a player, and Joseph’s not gone to us. He’s just on a long road trip with no self-service,” an emotional Artie shared. “He played for Seattle, he played in Canada, so there were times when we couldn’t get a hold of him when he was overseas. God is good, and our faith is greater than ever. We’re sad, but we’re so appreciative.
“Joseph almost died at childbirth, so for us we got a 29-year old-blessing. Maybe God postponed that moment when he was born to give it to us and let him impact the world.”
Devoted to playing a beautiful game, Joseph epitomized devotion to family, passion for the game and love of humanity.
“My teams have always been about family,” Artie said. “He bought into it, and he treated everybody just so well for the game. He was an ambassador of the game.”
The past few weeks have been a struggle for Artie, a veteran college, high school and youth soccer coach known for his positive nature.
“Honestly, right now ... there’s just no love for soccer in my heart,” said Artie, head soccer coach at Feather River College in Quincy. “Joseph was my assistant up there. He wanted to get into coaching. He wanted to get into teaching. He was really grasping the next phase of his career. He figured he had five more good years (playing), if you could extend it maybe.
“Up there (at Feather River), it’s so small and tidy. My wife (Cindy) worked in the office with us. It was just a real family affair, so we’ve got to do some soul searching right now.”
Feather River president Kevin Trutna tweeted out a tribute: “Those who had met ‘The Jet’ knew he had a great heart and was always giving to others.”
Dozens attended Joseph’s funeral on July 17 in Livermore, peering into a closed cemetery from outside a fence because of the coronavirus. A memorial was also held at Blue Agave Club in Pleasanton, owned by Alexandro Garcia, a close family friend.
The outpouring of love for Joseph — he came to Ontario in Southern California after playing for the indoor Tacoma Stars — has been heartwarming. Fans are coming from out of the woodwork.
“I got a message from someone from Kansas City that met Joseph one time because she came to a game and Joseph spoke with her,” Artie said. “She ended up saying how beautiful he was. It’s just been overwhelming. My boy was just …”
Artie, who resides in Meadow Valley in the Plumas National Forest, formerly lived in Livermore for 47 years, as part of a soccer-passionate family. He coached boys’ soccer at Livermore High from 1994-2002 and spent 16 years coaching at Cal State Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College.
Joseph’s soccer career started taking off when he was an All-Far West Region selection at Monterey Peninsula after he redshirted at Cal State Monterey Bay. After JUCO play, Joseph signed with Tacoma. He also played outdoors with the Burlingame Dragons and Seattle Sounders in the Premier Development League. At 14, he trained in Brazil with Atletico Paranaense. He was recently called into the US National Beach team and was set to join the LA Force of the National Independent Soccer League.
Many of his former Monterey teammates made the long trek into town to pay their respects after news broke of Joseph’s tragic death. Artie marveled at the Monterey players’ support.
“When the news went out that they found Joseph, 20 of his teammates sat with Cindy and myself at the morgue at the coroner’s office in Contra Costa County,” Artie said. “They drove all the way from King City, Monterey, Salinas, and 15 of them stayed with us that night at the hotel. That’s my son, the Monterey kid.”
In a warm tribute to “The Jet” on the Ontario Fury website, indoor league superstar Franck Tayou spoke of Joseph’s dedication and selflessness.
“He always wanted to get better, always wanted to do more,” Tayou wrote. “He was always talking to me, ‘Hey Frank, what do I do when you do this?’ … You could tell he was so happy to be on the team … He was contagious.”
Joseph’s trademark smile served as a complement to those fast feet.
“That was his weapon,” Artie said of Joseph’s pearly whites. “He used that to break barriers. He was always smiling. People said if you felt bad, look at Cairel. He was always smiling.”
The family would like to establish a scholarship or memorial tournament in Joseph’s honor. Joseph’s GoFundMe page has raised over $37,000. In a loving tribute on the page and the Fury website, Joseph was described as a son, brother, friend, teammate, coach and role model.
“He was fun-loving and caring; he was full of life and had a love for soccer,” the tribute states. “Joseph spent his life perfecting his love for the game and leaving all his skills on the field, he loved his teammates like brothers and adored his fans.”
The tribute concluded with, “We miss him like crazy, and this world is