Every four years the world is blessed with the World Cup, and every four years we struggle with how to watch every single game and remain productive, or at least pretend to be productive. How, for example, should we adjust our sleep patterns? How can we watch a 3am game as well as the following 8am and 11am matches? Should we go to bed early? Nap between matches? Or, forgo sleep all together?
While we can’t offer any solutions for being productive or help you convince your partner that watching 22 grown men kick a ball is the most important thing you’ll do this entire summer, we’d like to offer some insight and speculation as you anxiously await the first game.
1 vs 1 takes inspiration from impromptu pick-up games played on the block, in vacant lots, and backyard parties. In these games the general rules of soccer still apply: there is a goal and two opposing sides and there are winner and losers. Like these informal games, 1 vs 1 brings together folks with varying degrees of skill, experience with and knowledge about soccer. Through this new series of interviews we hope to create a space for everyone to enjoy the beautiful game.
In our second installment we pair up my sister, Aimee Guzmán, a graphic designer, and Alex Sánchez, a D1 soccer player.
Alex Sánchez is a graduate student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he played his last year of collegiate soccer. Before SLO, he played at the University of Connecticut. Soccer runs in the family veins and Alex’s grandparents and father and extended family have played professional soccer in the U.S. and Mexico.
Aimee Guzman is a graphic designer and the founder of Little Trailer Studios. She grew up in a family where playing soccer wasn’t really a choice. Though she only played one season of U6 girls soccer, she continues to be a fan of the sport.
We’ll start with Aimee:
RG: Sis, tell me about your soccer playing experience?
Aimee: Let me just put it this way. I grew up in a soccer household. Soccer was the most important past time in our family. We all played. We all had at least one pair of Sambas. Mine were green. Even my oldest brother didn’t have much choice in the matter. Every weekend he’d put his Kurt Cobain koolaid-died hair in a chic low ponytail and show up to play. Who knew a 90s teenager with all his angst could have such grace on the field. For me personally, I don’t remember if I truly enjoyed the game. I think it was just something we did because we were a soccer family. In a college family you go to college and don’t think twice about it. In a soccer family you play soccer, you have a goal post in the backyard that comes out in all your sister’s quinceanera pics and it’s all very normal. Also for me, it was one of the ways I could get you to spend time with me but truth be told, I’d rather be playing with my art supplies.
RG: What’s there something that you were particularly good at–in terms of soccer?
Aimee: Well in our backyard where we had a full on goal post, I was extremely good at doing these little moves and I was good at goalie. I had one move in particular that I would practice nonstop, the one and only move I mastered. Here’s how it goes. You’re running with the ball, your opponent closely behind. Then you quickly put one foot on the ball pretending to keep moving forward but the ball stays behind. By this point your opponent is way up front and you have a little space to pass the ball or shoot it straight to the goal. Out in the field, in real life, however, I don’t think I was that good. I think I liked the idea of it and the ceremony of it all, getting dressed up in the uniform more than anything.
RG: Since you are a graphic designer, I thought we might jump into some visuals aspects. Who has the best kits (uniforms) for this 2018 World Cup?
Aimee: Argentina’s home jersey is always great because it’s quickly recognizable and it’s iconic. What other country is straight up wearing their flag on their back? It’ll always be a classic. We have seen it before though so, let’s move on. Sweden does a good job too. When you see them there’s no doubt those jersey’s are representing the IKEA-loving country. There is a lot of nostalgia happening in fashion right now. The 70s and 90s are hot right now in case you haven’t noticed. Step into any Zara and you’ll see it. I can see that influencing some of the World Cup kits as well. Countries are looking to their jersey fashion archives and paying homage in a way. Germany, for example, basically took their 90s jersey and altered it by giving it more lines, and making it even more retro than before. Nigeria’s home jersey is the most out there. I like a good fashion risk and the world cup is no exclusion. Listen, we like our soccer players a certain way. Lean, handsome, athletic, with a very funky hairstyle so why not throw in a funky jersey as well.
RG: Best Mexico jersey?
Aimee: 1998 for sure is their best jersey. The World Cup is your chance to represent your country. You might not be the richest country or the most powerful but if you’re the best at soccer, to many, that holds as much clout. Mexico’s 1998 jersey has so much pride to it. It features the Aztec calendar, one can’t be more proud to be Mexicano when wearing that jersey. It’s quintessentially puro Mexicano.
RG: Best World Cup Commercial?
Aimee: Hands down the 1998 commercial starring Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Romario, created by Nike with legendary advertising agency Weiden + Kennedy who are titans in the advertising world. Unlike typical commercials and advertisements, it’s a pleasure to watch because it feels like the commercial was made solely for our entertainment and not in an effort to sell shoes. The gist of the commercial is that the Brazilian team is waiting at the airport, bored and start an impromptu game. For soccer fans this isn’t too unfamiliar; there’s nothing more that one needs than a soccer ball to keep one entertained. It’s set to the iconic Brazilian song, “Mas Que Nada” and the whole thing has this beautiful dance-like quality to it the way the players skillfully master the ball. What’s also great about it is that at the end, after an amazing show of fancy footwork, Ronaldo misses what should be an easy goal. I remember talking about soccer with a coworker one time and he commented that isn’t it interesting how in basketball the score will be 70 points to 65 but in soccer you’ll play a whole 90 minutes just to score one point. In soccer, one can play a beautiful game, but if you don’t make that shot, all that fancy footwork means nothing. The commercial has a way of encapsulating that essence.
RG: In 1998, you watched the World Cup in Santa Barbara with Tio Lobo and grandma. You famously predicted that France would win. How did you arrive to this prediction?
Aimee: I remember I spent that summer with grandma in her trailer and everyday all the tios would come over to watch the game like it was more important than anything else. So there we all were, they were huddled around the small TV and I just said out of nowhere “Francia va ganar.” My uncle’s kind of laugh it off. The way I laugh off the things my own nieces say. Growing up I had always been into French culture. The french mastered desserts and cute berets, so why not soccer too.
RG: Who will win this World Cup?
Aimee: These predictions have to come to me naturally. I’ll let you know when it comes to me.
RG: Hey Alex, I don’t want to intimidate you, but Aimee told me to tell you that when you were four years old we hung out at your parents’ house and Aimee balled you up. She claims, she megged you. She also accurately predicted that France would win the 1998 World Cup. Just FYI.
I thought we might start at the beginning. Your father Juan, grandfather Don Aurelio, and your great grandfather El Chita Aldrete played professional soccer, so soccer runs in the family veins. When Aurelio migrated to the United States in the1970s, your dad played in Sunday Leagues until he was a teenager. Both your dad and your mom attended college and in many ways were able to offer you soccer playing opportunities from an early age. I was wondering at what age you started playing club soccer and what that was like?
Alex: I started playing club when I was about 8 years old. It was a pretty awesome thing to experience because my dad was the coach and we were able to make a team from players from a local Sunday League in Pomona. Playing club it gave me the opportunity to travel all over the country and even internationally. Being able to travel to San Diego as an 8 year-old made me feel like a big deal! It also helped that we were a pretty good team and would win a lot of tournaments, making it that more enjoyable.
RG: As a teenager, was there a particular tournament or game that stands out?
Alex: I think playing club soccer in general made it feel like it was a serious thing. I was able to travel all over the state and country to play in tournaments, such as the Dallas Cup. Dallas Cup is a huge international tournament that only the best teams in the country are usually invited to, it’s very prestigious. I was able to play against teams from Mexico, England and Germany. The defining thing for me was definitely when the college recruiting process started for me and having college coaches calling me asking to continue playing at the next level.
RG: Did you ever play in Mexico growing up?
Alex: I spent one summer doing preseason with Tecos. A good family friend of ours, Alvaro Galindo, was a coach at that club and was able to facilitate me to go there for the summer, as well as playing in Dallas Cup with them. At Dallas Cup I was able to have a good showing with them and was invited to join them for their preseason. It was a great experience for my soccer career because the players there live and breathe soccer, so being able to play with players like that helped me grow as a player.
RG: What national team or national teams do you root for and why?
Alex: I like rooting for Mexico because that’s where most of my family is from and that’s what I grew up around, but I also like watching Germany and Spain play because of their styles of play.
RG: When Mexico plays against the U.S. who do you root for?
Alex: Whenever they play against each other I always find myself cheering for Mexico!
RG: Who is your favorite Mexican-American player?
Alex: I don’t really have a favorite to be honest, I’ve never really thought about it.
RG: In regards to the US and Mexican national team: what do you think is the future of Mexican-American players?
Alex: For the US I think it depends on who the next coach is and if they have faith in the Mexican-American player. I would like to see more of them stay in the US to add some more creativity to their style.
RG: Who do you see winning this World Cup?
Alex: There’s a lot of good choices but my gut feeling is that Germany is going to take it again.