Before joining the FC Chelsea Fire Lions Club, the only organized girls’ soccer team in the Barrio Logan/Memorial area, 13-year-old Cassandra Flores used to spend her afternoons in front of the television.
Now, when the team is about to play its final game in its way to become champions in the AAB bracket of the Presidio League, Cassandra said that playing soccer has become a way of life.
“Before I used to stay home all afternoon,” she said. “Now I get to have new friends, and learning about soccer has helped me communicate more with my parents and family.”
For the group of 18 girls like Cassandra from Barrio Logan who are part of the FC Chelsea Fire Lions Club, playing soccer has changed their daily life, said Coach Ramiro “Ray” Rojas.
“These are the girls whose parents work 10 to12 hours a day to survive. Whose lives are filled with Quinceañera and first Holy Communion obligations. Whose brothers seem to always get more of the attention from their fathers, especially when it comes to soccer,” he said. “But in the soccer field, these girls have proven that they too can play, that they too can be successful, that they too can have a better life.”
They have played eleven games in the AAB bracket of Presidio. They are currently undefeated. Regardless if they win their last game or not, they will be their bracket champions, Rojas said. They will play their last home game at Laura Rodriguez Elementary School, a venue named after a long time Logan Height activist, this Saturday, November 20.
But although they have had a successful season, last year, their first year of organized club soccer in Presidio, FC Chelsea Fire Lions Club lost more matches than any other team in their bracket.
Rojas said that at the beginning it was very hard for the girls to play. They had to deal with covering the costs of uniforms and registration. They had to overcome the macho mentality of many of the fathers who thought soccer is just for the boys and girls should stay home. They had to realize that they too could be great soccer players, regardless of what part of the city they come from.
The inspiration for Rojas to star the girls’ soccer club came from his own experience as the father of five daughters growing up in Barrio Logan.
“About three years ago many of us in Barrio Logan/Memorial were highly concerned with our youth. Interestingly a lot of us had grown up with the same types of mischievous experiences of young Latinos. Of particular concern was the lack of afterschool activities for our young Latinas. Being a father of five daughters, I struggled everyday, and especially the weekends, to provide them with activities that would keep them on the positive side of life,” Rojas said.
Today, thanks to Rojas’s initiative, many parents in Barrio Logan have the chance to see their daughters develop their characters through soccer.
“I feel very proud of my daughter,” said Jaime Madrid. “Since she started playing with the team, she is a better-rounded girl, helping at home, getting better grades in school.”
For the girls, being in the team has already impacted their everyday lives, from being more responsible to being more social.
“I used to be bullied at school, but now with soccer I’ve toughen up and the bullies have stopped,” said Beatriz Iturpio.
“Soccer is the most famous sport in the world, and we’re proud to be part of it,” said 12 year-old Georgina Rojas.
But most of all Coach Ray Rojas said that these girls will remember their time in the team as a great time in their lives.
“Never losing that inner hope, these girls have put together a season of unforgettable soccer,” Rojas said. “The memories and experiences they have had will serve them a lifetime.”