Amazing Oxnard soccer team competes in international tournament
Team, staff, honored at Tomas Cafe ceremony
Oxnard soccer club Esportiko AFC sent a team to play in two huge international tournaments in Spain- The Barcelona Costa Daurada Cup, and Madrid Donosti Cup.
Coach Robert Gutierrez and his assistant Ernesto Sanchez took twelve young members of the team and some staff on what was a trip of their lifetimes- 17 days (June 23-July 10), 9 glorious games in tournaments with hundreds of teams from 56 countries and five continents, played on about 30 fields.
While they were there, they had very tough competition, won three of the games and actually took second in their class in one of the tournaments, we were told. Mr. Sanchez told me that they arrived tired, jet-lagged and were in Europe for the first time ever.
He said that they play much rougher there and things which would incur a foul/penalty here are ignored there. The kids were a bit intimidated by all this at first, but were acting more like international veterans by the end of their tour.
Parents and local supporters were able to send twelve team members, at a cost of $4340 each, a very large sum for some families to raise- but raise they did, some with some help. The kids worked very hard to get ready for this trip and the team staff did a fine job preparing and supporting them.
When they weren’t actually competing in Spain, they were sightseeing, training, running, and watching other games. They even visited a coastal border town in nearby France.
44th Assembly District Rep. Jacqui Irwin was in town to congratulate them and hand out certificates to each participating team and staff member who showed up at the Saturday, 8-13-16 award ceremony at Tomas Cafe (event organied by Alex Rivera, active Oxnard Downtowner and Manager at “The Corner Pocket” billiards. The Garcia family, which owns the cafe has been very supportive of the team. Irwin remarked that she had seen the team a while back at a parade. She congratulated them, team staff and the parents, for their discipline and hard work. Many family members were in the audience, cheering and furiously snapping photos of the kids and event proceedings. Irwin remarked that lessons learned will help the kids later on.
I asked Messrs. Gutierrez and Sanchez what’s the difference between players here and there. They cited several things…. Players are more “passionate” over there, because they are more driven for success to improve their lots in life via soccer, or Futbol, as they call it in much of the world. But, Gutierrez said, parents here tend to work harder/longer to give their kids a better life. Consequently, they are away from them more, so it is hard to also give them as much support as they want to. Also, the game is more “physical” abroad, even though the rules are pretty much the same. Things that would be a foul here are often ignored there. Sanchez said his team members were initially confused when that happened, waiting for fouls to be called that were never called, but eventually they figured it out. Gutierrez said they will be better prepared next time- and he intends for there to be a next time! He also said the teams there train differently, frequently employing “small-sided” games, which means they practice with smaller teams- often only 4-5 to a side on far smaller fields, sometimes the size of a basketball court. He said that this results in much more intense practice games and seems to be quite effective.
The team had to compete in their division to qualify to go to this prestigious event, which is an honor. They are ranked 5th in the state in their class, we were told.
Coach Gutierrez feels that this is about far more than just playing soccer. It is also life preparation, in teaching goals, teamwork, discipline, hard work and learning to accomplish things. Kids engaged in this are more likely to stay out of trouble and accomplish more in life.
Gutierrez also believes that the high visibility and inspiration this program creates can help focus attention on local soccer programs in general. He said that the biggest problem now is lack of playing fields. Driving around in season, you will see busy fields all over town in evenings and on weekends. He would love to see more new fields and also the dual use or conversion of underused basketball, baseball, tennis and other facilities. Jacqui Irwin also discussed that with us later, after the program. Soccer has been popular all over the nation, although not so much professionally. In this area, it is huge, because so many families have Latin American roots, in countries where it is THE sport.
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George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.