‘La Liga’ draws passionate players
A small group of barefoot children play soccer on one side of the field while two teams of adults compete in the final game of the tournament. Suddenly, a player from the Pumas kicks a precise shot and sends the ball directly to the net. Goal! And the fans shout, “Pumas! Pumas! Pumas!”After the brief but intense celebration, some fans sit back on their folding chairs and enjoy a drink. The crowd includes teenagers and some mothers holding their babies but mostly young men who love soccer with a passion.The scene takes place every Sunday during the summer at Gates Soccer Complex at Colorado Mountain College. More than 500 people gather there to watch the games of La Liga Hispana de Fútbol, popularly known just as “La Liga” (the league).
“La Liga” has become one of the main forms of entertainment for Hispanics in the valley, and also for some Anglos. They come not only from Glenwood Springs, but also from cities as far as Aspen and Grand Junction.”The atmosphere is nice, everybody looks very glad,” said Luisa Sandoval, 69, while watching one of the games on Sunday. She lives in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, but is in Rifle these days visiting her daughter, María Delgadillo.Speaking in Spanish, Delgadillo said that she attends the games every Sunday to accompany her husband, son and nephews. They love soccer so much that her 1-year-old grandson has already begun to mirror them chasing the ball.Two relatives of Delgadillos play for Tapatío, one of the teams of the league. Yesterday, they celebrated when Tapatío won the championship of the B category after defeating Tequilas 7-0.
The league includes 28 teams, divided in two categories according to their level of soccer. The more advanced teams play in category A.Felix Pacheco, 20, said that he went to watch the games on Sunday because “who misses the finals?” He was cheering for Deportivo Guerrero for two reasons. One is because most of the players are originally from Guerrero, Mexico, like him. And also because their rival, the Pumas, eliminated Pacheco’s team in the semifinal phase.A few feet from Pacheco, a woman sounded a bugle and cheered for the Pumas while jumping and shouting.But not everybody is so passionate. Some fans kept their distance from the game, bought snacks and hung out with friends.
When the referee blew his whistle to indicate the end of the game, the woman sounded the bugle even stronger. The Pumas had defeated Deportivo Guerrero 3-0 and became the champion of the A Division.Martín Masiel, one of the organizers of the league, thanked the teams for playing fair. “What we want here is soccer and friendship for all,” Masiel said during the closing ceremony.In the end, each of the four teams that made it to the finals received a trophy amidst the cheers of their followers. Most of them will go back to the field next Sunday, when the action continues with a new tournament of “La Liga.”
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