BY BETTY BASTIDAS
The ball gets passed to Peña. It’s a give and go—in a clear path to score. She charges ahead, gives the ball a hard kick. Whosh it goes past the goalie and pounds the net. It’s the second consecutive goal for Peña tonight.
“It’s my time, my moment just to have fun—without kids,” says Alicia Peña.
“That was harsh mom,” says her 11-year-old son who was there to watch.
“What mi hijo, its true. This is MY time,” she says defending her position.
For the last three months, every Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p. m. it’s been soccer time for more than 20 moms, 80 percent Latinas to meet at Garfield Square and play. With children, husbands and relatives cheering them on, they let go of the week’s stress, burn some calories and play to win.
“All my stress from the week is released on the field—we forget about everything and we train,” says Nelly Villalta, 34, the mother of three, and the founder of Las Chivas Mom.
To make the team more competitive, the woman split Chivas in half—blues and greens—so they can play against each other.
Villalta says that since she started playing, her family is now on the same schedule. Her husband and their three kids practice daily and have games on Saturday.
“That way everybody is active,” she says. “When there is no practice nor games, we are bored.”
As to her own progress she’s modest. “I’m learning at the pace of a turtle but I’m moving along,” she says laughing.
Maria Cervantes, a 36-year-old mother of five children, says that after the first couple of Fridays, “I felt like a truck had ran over me—I couldn’t even lift my leg to get into the car.” Nowadays, she’s in shape and the aches are gone.
One male soccer fan watching from the sidelines on a recent Friday gets off his cell phone and turns to another.
“They don’t believe me– that only woman are playing on the field right now– we are going to have to bring them photos,” he says.
Meanwhile the game was in full swing. The women ran up and down the field, aggressively going after the ball, kicking high in the air and charging at each other, determined to reach the ball first.
“Let’s go, let’s go, it’s your day ladies,” the volunteer referee shouts.
Marcos Medina, Alicia’s husband and soccer coach for Chivas Falcons under 12, said he encouraged his son and daughter to play to show them “there are healthy ways of having fun, so their thoughts don’t stray and start thinking negative.”
Now he also drives over to Oakland every Friday to cheers his wife on. “I don’t miss a Friday. She enjoys coming and feels comfortable being here so I want to support that,” he says.
“She just scored!” A young kid watching yells out to him.
“Alicia averages one-two goals per game—she is showing off,” he says smiling. “She has a good touch on the ball and knows where she is going to put it. She doesn’t just kick it just to kick it.”
Before the game ends, Villalta get’s hit in the left eye with the soccer ball. The game stops and the woman surround her. But it only takes a couple of minutes for Villalta to pour cold water in her eye and resume running down the field in full momentum to defend the goal.
But Alicia’s husband is right, his wife Peña ”knows where she’s going to put the ball” and she ends up making a total of four goals.
The blue team, Peña’s, wins 6-1.
”It’s not like we can play but it seems like some of us are learning more than others,” Maria Lazcano says good naturedly as she collects the shirts from her team members on the green team.
The blue team has been winning for the past three weeks but before, “we had the winning streak for five weeks,” Lescano adds.
Eventually, the plan is to have their “league of old ladies,” as one of the moms puts it.
Isabel Christina Hernandez, 35, who joined the team two weeks ago, says she used to have a women’s soccer team back in Guatemala but had not played since she left four years ago. Without a doubt, she says, she will continue.
Playing soccer is not all they’re good at. “You haven’t seen us dancing yet,” she says.
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