More than a decade ago, when I was the Program Director at America SCORES LA, Mireya Mateo (a 4th grade student at Palms Elementary) wrote a poem called “Soccer is Family” and that couldn’t be a more appropriate title to describe the atmosphere around Jackson’s club team, C.D. We Futbol Club, in Granada. The team is based in the Granada barrio of La Chana, and the kids and families who are a part of this club know they are a part of something that extends beyond the result or their own child’s development as a player.
A few weeks ago, I had my first real experience as a Spanish “soccer parent” when I went to see Jackson’s team play for the first time.
Although Jackson hasn’t been able to play in a federated game due to FIFA transfer rules for foreign players, he still attends the games as a member of his team. Incredibly, so does every player on the squad who is either injured or not selected for the lineup that game. The players come to the field, go into the locker room with their teams, and sit in the stands in their team casual wear. In Los Angeles, when players are injured, they certainly don’t attend every game, and this simply amazed me. The players care deeply about their team, and it really is so impressive.
In the stands, all of the parents sit together, and the atmosphere is quite different from the spectating in the states. They bring coffee, beers, and cigarettes, and they create a lively social experience that they clearly enjoy. Their club has their own original song, and one of the players’ fathers plays the song through a megaphone after every goal is scored and at various moments throughout the game. They are clearly watching the game, but they are not merely celebrating the athletic achievements of their children. They are celebrating life, friendships, laughter, and the beautiful moments in time that are so easy to miss if you aren’t looking, that come and go in the blink of an eye and disappear just as quickly. When I rush through my Spanish, they say “tranquilo” and it makes want to slow down in an effort to taste every morsel of conversation. I am learning, poco a poco, as they say.
On this night, Jackson’s team won 1-0 to remain undefeated and in first place in their league. After the game, the families waited for the boys to exit the lockeroom where they surprised the Captain with a birthday cake and a small celebration. Everyone sung “Happy Birthday” and they had cervezas on hand for the parents. The sense of community was palpable.
One father introduced himself to me warmly. He was at the game that night with his father and his younger son even though his older son was injured and didn’t even dress for the game! Can you imagine that? The family attended the game when nobody in their family was playing in it. And it was late on a Sunday night and kids had school the next morning. Honestly, it just blew my mind.
This parent and I shared a beer outside the field following the game. I bumbled along with my broken Spanish, my breath visible in the cold, night air beneath the wide glare of the field lights. He told me that “el equipo es importante por mi hijo—donde ello tiene amigos y amigos muy buenas.” As each day passes, it becomes increasingly clear. In Granada, the team is a family and families are a team. Something to inspire to.