Fútbol at the Hogar


Some days evenings arrive unexpectedly, and I walk out of the comedor after dinner and resignedly tie on my cleats after half-hearted appeals from the boys for futbol.  At times we can almost be indifferent to soccer’s inevitability. 

Other times the beautiful game brings an irresistible energy, and entire days seem to revolve around futbol.  Anticipation lasts from breakfast until the hour arrive.  Tengo rigio are the watchwords, echoed throughout the hogar, difficult to translate precisely but roughly expressing a physical yearning for soccer.  Legs feel agitated.  Feet grow restless.  The goals will fly thick and the tackles will be bruising.  On these days all eyes are waiting for sunset.  At Amigos, (our) real futbol is played in the evenings.

 
 
 In small groups we wander onto the soccer field, pale lights illuminating the grass from goal to goal.  Those moments before we play—spent stretching or shooting on goal, or trash-talking—are full of promise.  Each one of us has in our mind a brilliant golazo, a stellar performance recognized by the group.  A lot of respect is earned (and lost) on the soccer field. 
 

We straggle into different teams and wait restlessly.  We’re not yet in full futbol-mode.  Somebody grabs the ball and punts it into the air.  Before it even hits the ground the transition has taken place.  We’re living in the moment, a different state of consciousness where our lives away from that field might as well be a million miles away.  Maybe I exaggerate.  But what is true is that your mind doesn’t work the same way when the ball is at your feet.  Instinct and adrenaline replace words and thought.  The day and all its challenges and troubles slip away, a blessed relief from the stresses of everyday life, for both the boys and me.  Even though soccer can be a time when we channel aggression, we find some measure of peace and belonging on the field.  That’s part of why futbol is so important to the boys here.
 
Love for the game goes deep.  Interest in soccer varies amongst the kids; some rarely or never play and others don’t let a day pass without a session.  But everyone here recognizes soccer as the primary sport, not just of our home but for all of Honduras.  Nationalism and soccer are intricately tied in this country, and that affects the children living at Amigos.  A world-cup qualifier brings excitement, apprehension.  The sports sections of newspapers are devoured.  The quality of certain players is vigorously debated.  And when game-time arrives, the children of Amigos huddle around radios or televisions and join the millions of other Hondurans cheering and groaning throughout those 90 minutes.  A goal scored for Honduras unleashes chaotic bliss.  We jump out of chairs, screaming, arms extended to the ceiling.  The younger children, often unaware of what’s going on, join in the shouting and hugging, scrambling to involve themselves in the celebration.  Moments of disorderly, wonderful happiness. 
 
Soccer is part of Amigos de Jesus.  There’s a rhythm and fluidity to life here that futbol expresses so well.  The soccer field is a canvas on which the kids channel their creativity and imagination.  And it’s a joy to share their passion. 
 
Joseph Starzl
Amigos de Jesus Volunteer 2012
BECA Administrator 2013