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The real World Cup

Joel Stonington
El Sur and a team from Glenwood Springs match up on Sunday. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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Fútbol, real fútbol, is taking place in the valley. It’s a scene, with crowds on the sidelines for every game: They have their sun umbrellas and lawn chairs and everyone – everyone – has an opinion about the game and the referee’s call.The fields at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs have games from every Sunday noon into the evening. Every team has a hot jersey, and plenty of people on the sidelines are wearing jerseys from an international team or well-known club team. Kids are playing on the sidelines, kicking soccer balls around. Women come dressed nicely. Yolanda Sanchez, originally from Mexico, who’s there every week cooking, sells tacos, soda and chips.

This is the Roaring Fork Valley’s version of the World Cup, with players from Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and more. The competition in the A-league is tough. The B-league is a little more laid-back, but it’s still serious. There will be some yellow cards and some takedowns.It might be more about playing with friends or playing with people from the same region in South America or playing on an all-Mexican team. El Sur, a team consisting mostly of South Americans, an Italian and a gringo or two (including the author), is clearly the best team in the universe. We didn’t win Sunday, but I have a feeling we’re on our way up to the big time.This is the first year with two leagues, but the number of people playing has been increasing as the league in the valley takes hold. There are 28 teams, 14 in each league. Halfway through the summer, when each team has played the others, the top four in the B-league go up to the A-league, and the same happens as the bottom four from the A- go to the B-league.

Many of the players were professionals at one point, including chief league organizer Francisco Lopez, who played in Mexico for two years. He’s lived in Glenwood Springs for the past seven years. The former pros have an extra element of competitiveness for the upcoming World Cup, when it kicks off Friday with host Germany versus Costa Rica – though not everyone roots for his home country. Leandro Liuzzi is from Uruguay, but his World Cup allegiance lies with Italy: “That’s my second nationality – my dad is Italian.”The first games of the World Cup this week might not take the Roaring Fork Valley by storm, but everyone who plays in the league knows exactly who he’s rooting for, and they think it’s crazy to ask whether they’ll be watching the World Cup.Of course. Oh yeah, every game. You better believe it.A 60-inch TV is like gold this summer. And it’s a safe bet that much of the conversation will be about the big games in any given week.

It’s anyone’s best guess about when those crazy about foolish sports like baseball and American football will catch on to the best game in the world. We gringos in the valley who have seen the light join in with the Roaring Fork World Cup. Really, it’s in the best interest of everyone. As Enrique Bienowski, a Uruguayan transplant who has lived in Aspen for 14 years, said, 205 countries are part of FIFA, the international soccer organization. Compare that with 191 members of the United Nations.”Play soccer,” he said. “Peace.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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