As Mexico’s Leon and Fresno’s Foxes headed to the locker room to prepare for the second half, we looked down into our orange mesh bag. We were technically done with our labor for the night. We spent the first hour before the game passing out our trading cards of important players, teams, and coaches from the San Joaquin Valley and speaking with fans about our effort to document the history of soccer in the valley.
Now, however, we were contemplating a different task. Just a few hours before we arrived to the stadium, Carlos, Carribean, and I raced against the clock to make a banner. Drawing and painting it was completed quickly enough, but to dry it we needed to use every fan and hair-dryer in the house. Each of us carefully directed hot air towards “REFUGEESI.” Now, after that labor, we were unsure of ourselves, shy about how and where to display and hold the banner. “What,” Carlos asked undeterred, “would Sócrates do?”
Rather than a question this was a reminder, a reminder that for Brazilian soccer star Sócrates, politics and sport were one, the stadium an ideal setting to deliver a message. Our conviction grew when we connected with Pedro Navarro-Cruz and his mother. The banner, even if briefly, hung in the stadium, marking the first instance in which Fresno Foxes fans expressed a political opinion.
As the Central American caravan made its way through Mexico and we learned more about their conditions and efforts by Mexicans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, we continued to ask ourselves, “What would Sócrates do?” This lanky central midfielder was a doctor, a philosopher, and the captain of Brazilian’s national squad during the 1982 World Cup. He marched against dictators, advocated for player rights on and off the pitch, and during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico wore a headband that read “Mexico sigue en pie” (Mexico still stands).
After walking more than 2,000 miles, the caravan arrived at Tijuana and found themselves a temporary home at the Unidad Deportiva Benito Juárez (Benito Juárez Sporting Complex). Very quickly a network of Southern California Raza activists began collecting donations and made regular trips down to the border to deliver material goods. As news of their efforts populated our newsfeed, we—a group of soccer players–arrived at the idea of organizing a futsal tournament to raise funds for Central American refugees. Each team would donate 50 dollars, the finalist would receive custom t-shirts, and the winner two copies of Joshue Nadel’s Fútbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America. So here is how it came together, for folks who might be interested in creating their own tournament.
If Sócrates originally guided our thinking, it was now the Mexican forward Chicharitos’s provocation that challenged us. For the Mexican national team, imagining the impossible meant believing they could beat Germany, the reigning World Cup champs. As players, scholars, and children of migrants, what futures can we imagine? What cosas chingonas do our people deserve?
In addition to Joshua Nadel, we invited Fresno-based writers, many of them children of migrants and refugees, to donate books, which we auctioned online. Books and authors included:
- Lee Herrick’s new poetry collection Flower and Scar
- Tim Hernandez’s All They Will Call You
- Randa Jarrar’s Him, Me, Muhammad Ali
- Joseph Rios’s Shadowboxing, Poems and Impersonations
- Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts’s Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy
- Steven Sanchez’s Phantom Tongue
Six teams participated; four were co-ed and together the players spanned multiple generations and included Central Americans, Mexican migrants, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Anglo Americans. Pedro Navarro-Cruz and Joseph Orbock helped secure teams and tapped into their cascara and soccer networks.
Kicking Knowledge on the Sidelines
Professors Anabella España-Nájera and Luis Fernando Macias provided brief, but concise lectures on the history of Central America, US Empire, and the asylum process in the age of Trump. They were joined by Saul Sarabia, one of the organizers with a network of Southern California Raza activists.
While I was worried about how to effectively combine soccer and lectures/discussions, it ended up working out well. “I feel like the players and teams were really concerned and interested in learning from the professors about the history of Central America and from the organizer Saul Sarabia a first-hand perspective on what is going on,” reflected one of the forwards for Joaquin Murrieta’s All-Stars.
Other valuable contributions included: Art from Mauro Carrera and Ramiro, refereeing by Tony, futsal pitch and facility by Melvin Williams of Melysport Futsal, music by DJ Hip-hop love, and many many others.
We’ll report back soon on how the funds we collected were used. In the meantime, let’s collectively imagine cosas chingonas. Like our page imaginemos cosas chingonas, Fresno on Facebook, send us a note, and let us know about the next cascara.
 To their credit, Fresno Fox and the Fire Squad have consistently stood against the homophobic “puto chant.