By Pablo Jaime Sainz
San Diego County is a place where soccer is thriving.
Although by the time this article is published the World Cup 2006 would be history, there´s another important soccer tournament that’s set to begin this weekend in San Diego.
It’s the 2006 Copa Lowe’s, a series of local and regional soccer tournaments scheduled to take place from July 2006 through January 2007 in 11 cities throughout the U.S.
The San Diego tournament will take place July 15-16, 22-23, at the Miramar College campus.
Copa Lowe’s is organized by La Alianza de Fútbol Hispano, the nation´s leading organization dedicated to the development and support of Hispanic amateur soccer.
“In only two short years, Copa Lowe’s has established itself as the premier amateur Hispanic soccer tournament in the country, and we are especially grateful for the way in which both the Latino community and corporate marketers have embraced and supported us,” said Richard Copeland, president and CEO of La Alianza de Fútbol Hispano.
This year, there will be 24 amateur teams participating in San Diego, according to Roque Farun, public relations director for Copa Lowe´s.
There are more than 25 amateur soccer leagues in San Diego County, he said.
“Soccer is really popular in San Diego,” he said. “When compared to other states, California is one of the most important in terms of soccer activities.”
Oscar Aparicio is head coach of Hacienda de Cabaña team in Golden Hill. This is the first time his team is taking part in a national level tournament, he said.
“We´re trying to stand out from the crowd,” Aparacio said. “Hopefully we´ll win all our matches.”
For many of the players, soccer means a way of life. Usually they spend weekends at soccer fields in community parks or local high schools, playing against other hard-working Latinos like themselves.
Such is the case of 22-year-old Mariano Mayoral, coach of Chivas Team from Lemon Grove, part of the California Soccer League.
“For me, soccer is the greatest past time,” he said. “It keeps me away from drugs, and at the same time I have a great time.”
He said that his team is in the tournament to prove their soccer skills.
“It´s exciting to play against the best in San Diego,” he said. “We´re going to prove we´re really good in the field.”
As part of Alianza´s way of giving back to the Hispanic community, the organization donates $5,000 in each city to an organization, program, or individual that plays a key role in the growth and development of soccer in their community.
The recipient of this year’s $5,000 Community Award presented by Alianza de Fútbol Hispano and Lowe’s in San Diego is the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department.
This award is to support the department’s continuous effort in the development of grass-roots soccer programs in the city of San Diego. This is one of 11 awards that will be presented across the country.
Ted Medina, director of Park and Recreation Department of the City of San Diego, received the award at a press conference last Wednesday, July 5, at the City Heights Recreation Center, where hundreds of Latinos practice and play soccer every weekend.
“This money is going right back to these fields,” Medina said, referring to the soccer fields at City Heights Recreation Center, on Landis St.
That was good news for Ramon Aldana, president of the City Heights Soccer League, which has 16 amateur adult teams and about 50 children’s teams.
“It´s important to have these type of tournaments here in San Diego because our players get very motivated,” he said. “This is one of the most important tournaments in the U.S.”
Aldana said that City Heights Soccer League will send it´s best two teams to the Copa Lowe´s tournament.
He said that City Heights has been present in the past two tournaments.
Founded in 2004, La Alianza de Fútbol Hispano has become the leading, national organization dedicated to the support and development of amateur, Hispanic soccer in the U.S.