Sanpedrinos take their fútbol seriously. In a town of about 13,000 people, there are almost 70 soccer teams in two divisions. Even some of the games in the “B” division are broadcast live on local radio.
I arrived in San Pedro just as the playoffs were getting started. Chino, my teacher, took me to one of the semifinal games of the “A” division. A couple days later, I returned with my friends Chad and Emily to watch the second leg.
There was a pretty big crowd, and I’m pretty sure we were the only foreigners there. The announcers noticed us pretty quickly, and made several comments about the extranjeros who had come to watch.
At halftime, they decided they wanted to talk to us. I don’t have a video of my interview, but I do remember saying, “Me gusta mucho,” a lot. Here’s what Chad and Emily had to say:
A few days later, I went to watch the finals. I arrived just as the “B” final was going to penalties. Here’s a few clips from both the finals:
Shortly after the finals, the teams began playing amistosos in preparation for the new season. Chino asked me to come watch his team, Huracán, and take photos for his Facebook profile. Huracán had another game a few days later in San Juan La Laguna, the next town over. I was planning to go to San Juan that afternoon anyway, so I went, planning to just stay for the first half.
I arrived early, and found an absolutely amazing artificial turf stadium. San Pedro has a dirt field that’s full of potholes. San Juan’s field is at least as nice as any turf field I’ve ever played on.
The Huracán players slowly began to arrive, as well as a few players from the San Juan team, Quetzal. About half an hour after the game was supposed to start (and 15 minutes after the referee arrived), Quetzal still didn’t have a full team. Luckily I was there, as was a Canadian guy. With us, Quetzal would have 11 players.
I played left back in high school and the one season I played in college. But I’m really tall in Guatemala, so my team decided I should move all the way across the field to play on the right wing. I hadn’t been doing much running, and we were playing at just over a mile altitude, so I struggled through the the 45 minutes I played. Huracán won, 4-3, but I played well enough that they invited me back for their next friendly.
I returned the next week, and played (for I believe the first time in my life) a full 90 minute game. This was the last friendly before the season started. The dueño of Quetzal asked me how long I would be staying in San Pedro. Since I would still be around for several more weeks, he invited me to officially join Quetzal.
So that’s how I got signed by a Guatemalan soccer team. There’s a player card somewhere with my name on it and everything.