Today was the first day I played soccer in Guatemala. It was an impromptu game after we visited our town’s public school this afternoon, and I was wearing tight jeans and ballet flats that flop off when I’m simply walking, so I felt quite disadvantaged…but excited none the less. It was Luis, Miguel (or Michael, if you want to be American about it), Ian, and I against four boys who I would guess aged from 14 to maybe 17.
We played in an uneven concrete yard with this hard plastic ball that really defied laws of physics; it was light as a feather but bounced high, you could never be sure if it would fly true when you kicked it. One thing that I could always depend on to fly true though was…my SHOE! It was downright dangerous, because every time I kicked with any semblance of force it flew off twice as hard as the ball, and though the tittering girls on the sidelines thoroughly enjoyed watching it, I decided that in the interest of the safety of my opponents I would have to play barefoot. Despite it, the teams were pretty evenly matched-there were times when we were losing and times when we were winning but there was never much of a lead for either team. In the end we had to leave and decided to settle by the merciless “next goal wins” method. The next goal went to our opponents but all left in good cheer.
We didn’t talk very much to each other while we played, but there is something to be said of the respect that you earn when you are open to a challenge and even more when you are equal to it. I love the fact that you can play a game and you don’t need to talk; you don’t need to stammer over conjugations and tenses that you aren’t sure of. There’s a beauty in being able to pass the time together and have fun that transcends barriers like race, language, or income level. I’m definitely hoping to go back and play again soon. Maybe with shoes next time.