Soccer all day, every day
Posted by Dean Holden at April 18th, 2013
From every nook and cranny they had streamed to the little Astroturf field in the park in the middle of their working class Alamos neighborhood. Seven, eight, nine years old. There must have been a hundred of them, delineated by their snazzy replica uniforms of the world’s big clubs, but with their own names on the back. They’d come to play soccer.
Some of them were big, some small. Some were good, some not. But they all played with a fanatical abandon that bordered on the maniacal. All day long. No matter the 85 degree temperatures, which rose steadily on the plastic field. On and on it went, teams playing 30-minute games and then shuffling through the gates of the tall fences to make way for another pair of teams. Those who weren’t in a game just then played on the side, or between shrubs, or underneath the bleachers. Overhead rabbled exotic birds, invisible on the branches of the tall trees behind the curtain of lilac flowers.
They weren’t so different from seemingly everybody else across this magnificent city on a pleasant Sunday, playing on every expanse wide enough, and those not quite suitable too, every vacant space sucked into soccer’s spell on this country.
The park field was much longer than it was wide, shaped almost like a bowling alley. A melee of tiny feet shuffled around the ball, playing short passes and pondering how to optimize the small space. Some feet had already struck up a good acquaintance with the ball, however young their friendship was, the tattered leather doing as its master commanded.
In the mesmerizing display lay a fundamental truth about soccer in this, and every, part of the world, which extends to Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between the Mexican and U.S. national teams here. Those who play it the most are best at it. And Mexico’s kids play it with an insatiable hunger, lusting after the ball whenever they don’t have it at their feet. In the United States soccer is an activity, not a necessity, to be played at the allocated weekly hours, between other hobbies designed to mold Timmy and Suzie into well-rounded college applicants.
Therein resides the difference, laid bare on a little Astroturf field in the park in the middle of their working class Alamos neighborhood.