It was 2 PM on a hot afternoon in August, and the Union Ajijic youth soccer team had just played two back-to-back games in a soccer tournament in Chapala. They’d had little opportunity to eat and now they had only a 10 minute rest before playing a third consecutive game against Los Charales of Chapala in the final.
Los Charales had been resting, watching Union Ajijic play, and they must have felt confident and refreshed as they walked on to the field to face the exhausted Ajijic team.
We’d set off from Ajijic at 7:30am: three teams of three age groups from the Union Ajijic soccer school, a free local program for the kids of Ajijic. Earlier, the teams in the younger age groups had played their tournaments. The 6-9 year-olds had come in second and the 10-12 year olds had won the championship in their group. Now all had gathered to watch the 13-15 year olds in their final. These kids practice five days a week at the Cruz Azul soccer field with the help of volunteer coaches. Their workouts are intense, and so is their love of the game.
Lately, the school has been getting increasing support from the local ex-pat community who have provided new balls, and for the older team, their first uniforms. An increasing number of ex-pats have been coming to the games, impressed with the heart and spirit they’re seeing. The mutual love of soccer breaks down language barriers and creates a real connection between the Mexican and ex-pat communities.
The referee blew his whistle to start the game, and our sweat-soaked players started to run. One of our players collapsed under the heat and was carried off by the paramedics, another succumbed to the heat a little later. Cramps were setting in and injuries mounted. They were running until they fell. And they dug deep to win an astonishing game 4-0.
At the final whistle, the younger kids came onto the field to celebrate and congratulate their older heroes. It was quite a scene. Despite being exhausted, it didn’t stop them singing and chanting all the way back from Chapala and through the streets of Ajijic. You might have heard them. If not you can catch the spirit at one of our games. Check-out UnionAjijic.com for more details about the school, the kids and upcoming games.