“Are we going to swim mommy?” asked the little boy on the stroller. Yes, his mom said, they were headed to the Garfield Square pool.
I wasn’t here for the pool however. I was in Garfield Square on Saturday to watch soccer. Like any good Mexican, I wasn’t interested in lounging around or swimming, I wanted to see the children of the Latino community play our most beloved sport – el futbol.
From the first match I watched at 10 a.m. I knew my day would be one of remembering my home and childhood in Mexico City. The yellow uniforms of Aztec Force immediately reminded me of the Mexican soccer team El America, a team some love passionately and others say is a team that plays horrible soccer. I’m one of the latter. I have been a Cruz Azul fan ever learning at the age of five that my Papa was a Cruz Azul fan.
Regardless of the team, I knew it would be incredibly blissful day of watching futbol with the families of the players and surrounded by the most beautiful language in the world, Spanish. The fields and park filled with the liveliness and “festividad,” festiveness of Latin America.
Like any good reunion, there was also food – Doritos, “Pixa,” and Gatorade. Las mamas chatted, the kids played futbol and the fathers cheered, giving advice on the sport that brings all Latinos together.
At around 11 a.m. the paletero popsicle vendor arrived with his cart. Immediately the children off the field, swarm his cart and in minutes every kid has an ice cream in their hands. It was a good day for the paletero.
With the commotion around the paletero I failed to realize that Aztec Force had won its match.
“Cheese!” I hear from behind where I’m sitting on the bleachers. Under the shade of the pine tree the team with the uniform that look so much like El America’s uniform is posing for a picture. The kids are brandishing their newly awarded medals and couldn’t look happier.
I turn back to the field. A new match has already started. This time a team in green is playing against another team in yellow. I decide to root for the yellow one for no more reason than the fact that my family is originally from Sweden and the yellow uniforms look exactly like the Swedish national uniforms. I wonder if there is a tiny version of Slatan Ibrahimovich playing today.
As I watch the game from the bleachers I start to sweat profusely. Living in Ingleside, more appropriately named Iglooside, I have come to have certain expectations about the weather so I’m wearing flannel. I console myself by thinking that I probably feel as hot as all the kids that are playing out in the sun.
“Yael!” shouts a cheering dad wearing a Mexican cap. The ball suddenly rolls away from a group of struggling players towards a boy on the other side of the field. He immediately realizes the opportunity, runs for el balon, the ball, gets it, jumps over a defender and makes a goal.
My mouth is hanging open, the crowd is cheering – that was a good goal. This is my tiny Ibrahimovich.
When I didn’t think Garfield Square could feel more like Mexico another vendor comes by. This one sells chicharrones and papitas con valentina y limon, a Mexican delicacy and raspados or slushies. This is exactly the kind of food that you can get at El Estadio Azteca in Mexico City where I have seen Mexico play against the United States.
In my excitement to get my own chicharrones con valentina I miss the end of yet another game. By the time I look back to the field it is already close to noon and there is now a team in white and another in blue playing. I cheer on the blue team this time just because el Cruz Azul has blue uniforms. I just hope that equating this team with Cruz Azul won’t give them bad luck given that Cruz Azul tends to lose its games.
At 12:20 p.m. drama occurs.
“I want ice cream!” a little girl cries, and she sure knows how to cry. Her mom looks desperately for change in her purse. In the meantime the little girl gets increasingly desperate. Her friends even come by and offer to buy her an ice cream. Her mom buys her a raspado however, and this is not good because she now wants an elote or corn on the cob.
I’m starting to feel really bad for the mom so I move away and I go sit in the shade next to the “porteria,” goal, where I learn that my blue team has won the game 10 to 1. They are much better than Cruz Azul.
The new team that is going to play is called the Vikings. This is, of course, the team I’m rooting for given my Swedish and, hence, viking ancestry.
At around 4 p.m. the last match is ending. Now there are only Latino parents cheering which means that the match has gotten really loud.
“Let’s go nido! Aguilas!” rings across the field constantly. They could just as well have been cheering for El America. The only language to be heard is Spanish and I have completely forgotten that I am in San Francisco and not at home in Mexico.
After the kids come out of the field sweaty and red faced it is time to say goodbye.
“Hasta luego, nos vemos,” or goodbye and see you again people begin to tell each other. You can hear in the way they say it that this has been another fun and happy day at the park watching futbol.
Close to 5 p.m. all the families are gone and the field is no longer the lively stadium. Garfield Square has now become a quiet neighborhood park with a couple of guys shooting goals. Spanish can no longer be heard in every corner. It feels as if Mexico has left the park and I have been transported back to San Francisco.
Three fashionable girls walk by with totes over their shoulders. “I’m 21,” one says. The park has definitely changed.