This paper will demonstrate the relationship of the development of soccer in my immigrant community, the Salinas community. The paper will demonstrate the relationship between my immigrant community who were farm workers in the Salinas community and other dominant communities in the region as well as analyze the development of soccer in Salinas Valley since the 1970s and how this has connected to different forms of domination.
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My name is A.P., born and bred in the U.S. by immigrant parents. My family is from Mexico. I am the assistant captain of the local community soccer club here in Salinas Valley. I hope to be the captain one day and finally coach my team and make it a role model to other community based soccer teams. My personal experiences have shaped my identity and laid the groundwork in the way I address people and connect with them. Different people have a different view of what kind of a person I am. My coach labels me as being aggressive while our captain calls me ambitious. Very important are my friends who have also taken a big part in shaping my identity especially my teammates. However, I feel my identity has been especially shaped in the Salinas community soccer league where I have actively participated in since I was young.
There are a variety of sports that form identities and instill a sense of identity among us but I chose to write about soccer for three particular reasons. The first reason is the richness of the history of soccer in the world and especially here at the Salinas community. The second reason is that soccer is a popular global sport that attracts people of different divides. The third and most important reason is that I have particular interest in the sport. To me, soccer is a potent vehicle through which a nation and perhaps a community like ours is defined.
Many people always refer soccer as a recent sporting activity in the U.S. but for us here at the Salinas community, soccer has been practiced for a very long time. My old folks talked about playing soccer with the white supremacists when they were still slaves. The growing popularity of soccer in the Salinas community is attributed to the large number of immigrants laborers and today thousands perhaps millions of workers arrive from Mexico to work in the Salinas Valley. Due to the large number of workers from Mexico, we have in many ways copied their cultural and social practices that they brought with them. The Mexican immigrants are indebted to introducing soccer to the Salinas community as part of their cultural baggage from Mexico.
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I have been privileged to encounter members of our soccer league who have indulged me with information about early Salinas community soccer league. I also equipped myself with such secondary sources like newspaper articles, journals and catalogs. This soccer league started a long time ago but involved members of the same community. I was able to find photographic evidence of the pioneers of the league. Interestingly the first person to be in charge of the team’s community affairs was a woman, Rael Suarez. She was the Mandrin of the team and therefore used to carry the bucket that carried the soccer ball. The team consisted mainly of people of Mexican descent. The Salinas soccer involved family contest consisting of dads and brothers. Immigrants in this part of the community tried to actively incorporate a cultural aspect of their lives with the American society and they have long been adapting soccer with the American culture (p.29-30). This has evolved over the years and now the team is made of people of all races and different ethnicities.
My identity in soccer community
From the symbolic interaction theory, we get to know that human beings are different from animals in that they have the ability to give symbolic meaning to the material world they live. Therefore, human beings are able to not only produce a history, language, a civilized relation or culture but also able to create habits that changes and they then can adjust with time. I have realized that the above theory is well applicable in my community at Salinas Valley. Although mostly inhabited by people from the Mexican community, the Salinas Soccer League prides itself as the most cosmopolitan league in the neighborhood. We start our ‘season’ of playing soccer usually in September and this serves as the opening of the league. This is the perfect time that we meet and socialize with different people from different backgrounds. Choksy who is a great friend of mine recently noted when he was invited for the first time, “I have begun to perceive a form in the process of social time.”
The Salinas community has had a necessity of interacting with their family, friends and even enemies. This is through the practice of soccer. I have realized that many people do not have prior information about soccer. Most of the whites here think that soccer cannot thrive in a capitalist society. But the Mexicans in Salinas created soccer as a way of promoting their culture and identity and borrowed heavily from the existing U.S. culture and ideas to perfect the sport. The people in my community have thus over time created a strong recreational culture and used sport, especially soccer, to escape the normal boring lifestyle. We now have several communities in our league including whites who seem to love the sport more and more each day. Luckily for us, the urban U.S. culture seems to promote recreational activities. People in industrialized countries have a necessity to recreate and escape their everyday hustles and what a better way than to get involved in soccer. There are several ways in which our community has invited people to be involved; one can decide to be a participant, a fan, a coach, technical bench advisor or just a spectator.
I was honored to be the assistant captain of my team last summer. I understand that socialization is an important factor in leading my team not only to play the best soccer and win in major tournaments but also bring people together no matter one’s race, color or background. I love socializing with my teammates and I have realized that by socializing with others, we able to bring out our social identity. I also realized that being a soccer player is one of the most visible representation of my country’s traditions, history, values and identity. We at Salinas community therefore act as ambassadors for our country and showcase the rich culture of the U.S. in my community; soccer has been seen as the lingua franca between the different races of people here. This is very contrary to what some people think about soccer; fully grown men chasing after an inflated hide. I have participated in educating my teammates that soccer is more than that.
As the assistant captain, I have mobilized local businesses in the Salinas area to sponsor my team. So far I have been successful and now we able to award our best players and attend tournaments outside Salinas. I could also like to thank all our coaches for heeding our call and volunteering their coaching services. In the fall season that opened in September 10, 2011, I included for the first time two Somali players. Although they were initially shy to get involved but recently they have invited their fellow Somalis and hopefully this will help them mix well with other members. I believe in the cliché that sports and indeed soccer can break barriers. This has of course not always been so, what with racist remarks during international soccer competitions, but I believe in my community’s last game, we came close to the mark. I have also used my position to warn our supporters that they should never engage themselves in such activities like hooliganism or racism. Our aim is to use soccer to do away with such unsporting activities, not that soccer is always harmonious but I have realized that unprofessional refereeing can make the game more physical. For that reason, I have partnered with officials from other teams and we have called for professional refereeing. My captain was heard saying, “the meeting is not meant to detract referees from doing their work but they should be self-policing, self-organizing and very dependent to help soccer affairs run smoothly.” We could not agree more to the tall dark burly built Mr. Sox, our captain.
I want to use my position to involve all the people I can reach to participate in soccer and make them feel that they are part of us in every way. Although I intend to captain the current squad, my ambition is to one day coach the team and use my players to shows that indeed soccer can break all barriers and unite communities to peacefully coexist together not looking each other in terms of color, background or race.
I can say that my identity has been greatly shaped by my participation in the Salinas community soccer league. This is not to say that school, teachers and my family are not involved. In very special ways they have been the most important people and have brought out the identity in me. Being the assistant captain has seen me bring out my identity in various ways. I love soccer and especially community soccer and love it when different people of all walks meet to be part of ‘their team’ no matter who is playing. To me, soccer is a global language.
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