The cultural significance of soccer in the Latinx community

Story and photo gallery by TYSON ALDRIDGE

Soccer, or futbol as it is called in Latin America, is the most popular sport in the Latinx community. Children from the time they are born are given a soccer ball to play with, or share a couch with a loved one to watch a game. That is why the love of soccer is so deep, it is firmly implanted in their day-to-day family lives.

Carlos Deschapelles of Univision Communications INC. explained in a 2016 article that Latinx communities have a love for soccer. “Look at the numbers: a whopping 84% of Hispanics follow the sport, compared to 47% of non-hispanics.” Deschapelles also said that 76 percent of kids and teens who watched the Copa America Centenario on Univision did so with an adult.

Grant Barnes, sports editor for the Tulane Hullabaloo, said in his 2018 article, “In 2017, Latinx people accounted for 68 percent of soccer viewership in the U.S. alone. Univision has estimated that approximately 84 percent of Latinx people follow the sport, and that they watch approximately three times as much soccer as non-Latinxs.”

It is no surprise that Latinx people in the U.S. are responsible for most of the soccer viewership in the U.S. because as Deschapelles said, “Based on U.S. census data, approximately 75% of U.S. Hispanics will find their country of origin represented by one of the teams at the Gold Cup in the Summer.” This gives the Latinx community here in the U.S. a sense of pride and excitement when their team is represented at the Gold Cup.

The U.S. does a great job of trying to keep the Latinx culture involved by hosting foreign tournaments in the U.S. Deschapelles explained, “By keeping Hispanics connected to their culture and their home country through tournaments that take place in the U.S. — like the 2016 Copa America Centenario and 2017 Gold Cup — soccer allows them to acknowledge and thrive in their duality.”

Dominic Militello is the head coach of the Cottonwood High School soccer team. Just watching the practice, it is easy to tell that these players absolutely have a burning passion for the game. Senior defender Josue Calderon said, “We were born with it, we basically grew up with our parents playing it and showing us the ways and their love for it.”

The great thing about this connection to the sport that the Latinx community has is that it brings them closer together as family and as friends. Whether it is through their local school team or club, or even recreational leagues that they play in on the weekends, they love the sense of family and community the sport brings them.

Christian Alfero, a sophomore midfielder, said that soccer has been a huge component for him and his family his whole life. He said, “I grew up watching the game and seeing the professionals on TV, and once the games were over my family would go outside and have 5 vs. 5 games.”

Brandon Morales, a sophomore defender, said, “I think it’s more like a family. It makes you act like you are actually a part of a family. You can relate to each other better because we are all Hispanic, and having that similarity with our culture makes us like each other more.”

Each of the players stressed family as the main component of their love for soccer. Sophomore forward Kody Flores said, “Ever since I was little my first toy was a ball. When you’re playing soccer it makes you feel at home.”

The Cottonwood High players’ faces lit up when talking about the competitiveness that soccer brings them within their community. Senior defender Calderon said, “We have a lot of Mexican league teams that we have friends and family playing on, and you look forward to playing against your friends.”

Soccer also brings this community a sense of pride. Morales, the sophomore defender,  said, “Mexico has always been good at soccer. It is one of the things that they are really good at and have a ton of talent when it comes to soccer. Just showing it off and displaying it feels good.”

The Cottonwood High School soccer team puts a tremendous effort toward getting better daily. They practice from 3 in the afternoon until 4:30 Monday through Friday, with games mixed in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The team has Latinx representation, and as result, spectators can see the passion go from them to the rest of the team. Coach Militello pushes his team to succeed. And that is shown through constant instruction and coaching to ensure each player is doing their best. Sophomore defender Alejandro Barahona, said, “Being on this team and playing soccer makes us more like a family, and brings us closer together as a team.”

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