The Overlook at Pantano Football Club
July 31, 2004. When we arrived in Miami, it was so beautiful, the city, the buildings, and overall the beach; that was so amazing. “I am going to live here in this spectacular place, I can’t believe it.” I was thinking about all that. But my heart went down when my mother said, “It’s a beautiful place, but we are not going to live here; we are going to Tucson, Arizona.” “Tucson, Arizona, where is it? I have never heard of it before.” It wasn’t a known city. When we took the train to Tucson, I thought, “Well Tucson will be my home now. I hope that Tucson will be like Miami or something like that.” When we took the train to Tucson, I was nervous; I had never been on a train before. We traveled by many states (Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and New Mexico.) I was getting to know all those states. It was really cool, but my heart was worried about the new place that was waiting for me.
August 3, 2004. Three days on the train, and we were very tired. When the train arrived in the station of Tucson, my stepfather was waiting for us. At that moment, I was sad. Tucson wasn’t like Miami, no beach. It was a desert. And it looked a boring place. Finally we got to the apartments, which was a wonderful place with a big pool. I instantly thought, “Maybe there are many people that play soccer in this place. That would be really fun.” But it wasn’t that fun, no body played soccer. The only sport that I saw was “American Football.” All the kids were playing that sport. There was only me with a soccer ball at my feet, trying to get their attention, but they were very focused on their sport.
When I started school, everything was better. I got to know more people, even if they didn’t live in the same apartments. While Christmas was coming, I was more and more sad; I didn’t know what to do in Christmas. “What I am going to do without my family, without my friends.” I was thinking about all the fun moments that I had at Christmas with all my friends. I was feeling sadder, really sad.
January 25, 2005. Christmas was very sad, it was the saddest Christmas that I had ever had before. After Christmas, everything was normal: the school, and the same boring place – my neighborhood. I was getting to know the place more and more, and I was getting to know more people, not from my same age, younger than me. Unfortunately, they didn’t like soccer; some of them used to play it, but they didn’t do it any more. That month, two kids moved to the apartments; they were from Mexico. We became friends very quickly. Of course we spoke the same language; and we liked the same sport: soccer. At the time, I invited them to go to the basketball court to play and have fun there. “Do you want to play soccer?” I asked them. “Yes, we love to play soccer. We used to play in Mexico. I thought no one would like soccer in this place,” Omar said. Omar was the younger boy; he was 10 years old. “When are we going to play?” Fernando was the elder; he was 12 years old. Together we went to play soccer; it was the first time that I played soccer in The Overlook at Pantano. We had a lot of fun there. Now I was happy. There were two boys who I could speak with and have fun with. Together, we met more people, but still no one else who liked soccer.
November 25, 2006. At the time I knew more people, and life wasn’t so boring. A new family was moving to the apartments. They were from Somalia, Africa. My mother was the first person to meet them. When she saw the new family, she said “Maybe they don’t know any one in this place. I am going to welcome them.” When my mother came back home, she told me that they were good persons, and that they didn’t know anybody. After a few minutes, I decided to visit them. There were a big family of seven siblings (4 girls, 3 boys, and of course their mother). Mohammed was the eldest of the boys, and he told me that they lost their father in the war, so they moved to Egypt, and then to here. I asked them if they played soccer, “Of course we play soccer. We love it! It is the only sport that I play,” Mohamed said. I invited them to play soccer on the basketball court. We had a lot of fun on the basketball court, even though we were only four people. After a few days, we were good friends – Somalis, Mexicans, and Hondurans – three different cultures united by one sport: soccer, and we were waiting for more cultures.
One day I was talking with Mohamed about how the kids were good players even though they were young. At that moment, Mohamed had a great idea. He said “Raul, why we don’t make a soccer team. You know all the kids from different countries playing together.” “A soccer team,” I said. I agreed with Mohamed we should make the team. We called all the boys to see if they would agree with us. The boys were very happy; they would be part of a soccer team for the first time. One of the boys said, “Raul, how about the uniform? We don’t have that.” “Don’t worry,” I said. “I am going to the office to see if they can help us with the uniform. Our soccer field to practice would be the Ditz Elementary School; I talked with the principal, and she agreed.”
The first game was really bad. We lost 15-0, and the boys were very disappointed. I told them, “It is all right. The next game will be better. If you work hard, everything will be fine.” “Fine?! We lost 15-0 the next game will be worse. Maybe the next game we’ll lose by 20 or more,” Omar said. He was so sad because we lost by 15. “I know the next game will be better and if we work harder for the next game, we will win because we can do it,” I said. The next game we won 3-2, and the boys were very happy. In the following games they worked hard and won. Finally we passed to the final against the best team in Tucson. We were waiting for that game for along time.
One day one of our best soccer players, Bryan, told me something really bad. “Raul, I think I am not going to play anymore. My brother doesn’t want me to play soccer.” “But why?” I asked. “He said that my sport is football, no other sport.” “Let me tell you something, if you like soccer, that is the sport that you will play, and no body has to tell what to play,” I told him. “Ok, I am going to talk to him about this. Thank you Raul.” In the next game, Bryan was on the field with his brother supporting him. He understood that it doesn’t matter what sport they like, what matters is what they like. In the game, he made a great goal.
The next day, my friend Mohammed and I decided to have a meeting with the boys so they could know more about each other’s cultures. We were from different countries: Mexico, Somalia, Kenya, Honduras, and America, of course. We started to talk about their cultures, and about what is the difference between here and their own country. “Ok, I want to say some words,” said my friend Mohammed. “I want to tell you that this is really beautiful, to see you playing like a big family even though you are from different countries and different cultures. Soccer is the most important thing. It is incredible how soccer unites people. Now we are a big team, and I hope this continues in this place without racism; thank you.” We talked about many things, really enjoying knowing about each other’s cultures. “Now our slogan will be: with hope and perseverance your dreams came true,” I said.
Our big game was coming, the final. We worked very hard all week so we could win the final. The big day came, and the boys were so exited. The people were yelling for their favorite team. Finally, the game started. The game was really close, no goals, and no opportunities to make the goal. The two teams were playing really hard. At the second half, the boys were taller; they just took 10 minutes for break. The second half started, it was the same as the first. When the game was almost finishing, a big center pass from Omar to Bryan made the first and the last goal. With the goal, we won the game. We had a big party, and we brought the trophy to our home: “The Overlook at Pantano.” All the boys learned something very important: with perseverance you can make your dream come true and with friendship. The boys decided to practice their old sport “football,” but soccer always is going to be in their heart forever.