Children playing soccer | Soccer | Sports

It’s been a while since the weekends belong to my wife and I, who find ourselves dragged on Saturday mornings through the fields where children’s and youth soccer games are played. From September to June our agenda is determined by the capricious calendar of the lower categories. I have to admit that, in general, I don’t dislike the plan. Fathers and mothers of the team, we meet an hour and a half before the meeting, always in the same place, from which a caravan of shared cars leaves and takes us to a different town every Saturday. Upon arriving at the field, the children begin their ritual (changing rooms, warming up, previous talk) while the adults share coffee, catch up and complain about our routine, the price of things and the attitude towards life of the new generations. Then, with the initial whistle, the home and visitor fans display in the stands all the archetypes of soccer fathers and mothers, from the one who corrects the position not only of his son, but of everyone else, to the absent guy who plays with the cell phone while his son does his best on the field, passing by those who make loud jokes about his son’s (bad) performance or those who predict a sporting career full of success for that eight-year-old who still believes in the Tooth Fairy. Soccer parents get a bad press, I know. Maybe I have been lucky, but my experience tells me that the majority take all this about children’s sports with ironic distance and are aware that despite the pompous officiality of the matches, the bright t-shirts and the lines of lime on the grass, all the paraphernalia, in short, this is just a game, a simulation of a universe, the professional one, which is light years from here.

For girls and boys, however, soccer is important. Juan Villoro wrote that there is nothing more serious than a child playing. On the field they give everything they can. His gestures are tense. Sometimes there are tears. Many dream of one day being first division players. Others become aware of their shortcomings or suspect that the bet is not worth it, but they still give their all for the team. And there come the victories, the defeats, some draws and, with the passage of time, the seasons and the filtering of little ones based on supposed abilities. Performance and other teams are formed and tacitly let know that they train just to pass the time. And that’s where things start to go wrong. The bad guys are made to know that they are, even if their squads are named with colored euphemisms and not with hierarchical letters. The girls stop being able to play with those who until now have been their companions. And those who stand out? A universe of expectations is generated around him. Clubs and schools point the finger at supposedly chosen ones. Parents lose perspective. Things are getting very serious. The child becomes a player. The smiles begin to disappear. There is nothing more serious than a child playing, wrote Maestro Villoro, nor anything more grotesque than an adult playing with children like pieces on a board, I dare to add.

A friend, a soccer player, told me one day that soccer is worth it only as long as your sports bag is bigger than you. Another told me that he still had nightmares remembering the trips in the car with his father, upon returning from games, and confessed to me that on one occasion he was about to run into the road, on the highway, all to stop listening to his reproaches. .

It is the obligation of fathers, mothers and coaches to take care of the little ones. The key is easy: don’t forget that this is a game, a game that has to be serious for the children and happy for us, that if they are to be professionals one day, the memory of childhood is the refuge to which they return when the things get ugly. And let it be noted that I am not talking about the big clubs, where the little ones are generally taken care of with care, but about all those in which adults who did not make it play to be professionals. My grandfather had a sign hanging in his office that said: if he has nothing to do, don’t do it here. On the lower category soccer fields he should hang a similar one: if he didn’t manage to be a professional, don’t be one here.

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