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Mission Soccer: from The Good Men Project Magazine

Mission Soccer: from The Good Men Project Magazine

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Published by GoodMenProject
For the varsity soccer players at one San Francisco school, their team is their family, and futbol might be their only ticket to college. Jordan Conn shadowed the team last fall, as they defended their title against a neighborhood rival.
For the varsity soccer players at one San Francisco school, their team is their family, and futbol might be their only ticket to college. Jordan Conn shadowed the team last fall, as they defended their title against a neighborhood rival.

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Published by: GoodMenProject on Sep 21, 2010
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01/28/2013

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For the varsity soccer players at one San Franciscoschool, their team is their family, and futbol might betheir only ticket to college.
by Jordan Conn
 
For the varsity soccer players at one San Francisco school, their teamis their family, and futbol might be their only ticket to college.JordanConnshadowed the team last fall, as they defended their title against aneighborhood rival.
The guy on the trophy looks white.
This much has been decided as the Mission High School soccer players pass around the statuee
they’ve owned for four years running, the foot-tall piece of wood lined with bronze that repre-sents their status as the best soccer team in the city.
The gure who sits atop the trophy, the one the players rub with reverence, the one whose com
-pany is coveted by all of the city’s coaches—well, he doesn’t look a damn thing like his currentowners. His hair is parted perfectly to the side, too long to match Jose Guevara’s close-croppedspike and too neat to resemble Diego Tamayo’s faux-hawk. His jersey looks like it belongs on anIvy League rugby player, with its plunging neckline and its collar folded down.And the shorts?“Those things are hella short,” says Jose Mendoza, laughing as he points. “You can’t be wearingthose around here.”Welcome to the Mission District, one of San Francisco’s most dynamic, constantly-buzzing neigh-borhoods. It’s a place where twenty-something hipsters from Williamsburg live next to sixty-
something abuelas from Oaxaca, where residents range from lawyers to acvists to arsts to
gang-bangers.***
It’s a neighborhood that has drawn wide aenon for its irrepressible culture (at once Pan-American and unmistakably San Franciscan), its progressive polics, and its semi-regular streaks
of violent crime. It’s also the home of the two best high school soccer teams in the city, the Mis-sion Bears and the O’Connell Boilermakers, both set to compete for the city’s championship onan overcast fall day.
They won’t be playing in the Mission—there is no eld here worthy of hosng such an event—but before the Bears take the J train to Balboa Park’s Boxer Stadium, they sit in the bowels of 
Mission High School, and they admire their hardware.
Mario Ruiz leans over to examine the trophy. Listed on the ocial roster as 5-foot-3 and 89
pounds, Ruiz looks more like he’s preparing for a sixth-grade gym class than a varsity soccergame. His Mission warm-up jacket—deep brown with gold trim, the team’s logo on its breast—swallows up his small frame. His gold jersey and matching shorts look like a costume, the get-upof a kid going as a soccer player for Halloween.But whether or not Mission wins today, or he gets into the game, it’s clear to the freshman
midelder that he’s already part of a San Francisco dynasty. “Mission, Mission, Mission, Balboa,
Mission, Mission,” he calls out to his teammates, reading the names etched on the trophy as city
champions during the 1970s.
 
He giggles and bounces ecstacally on his feet. In all, he discovers, the Bears have won thirty-twochampionships in the city league’s 73-year history. No other school has more than ten.
***
Mission won its rst city championship in 1939, and at that me, the white guy on top of the tro
-
phy would have t right in.The neighborhood was mostly composed of recent Irish and Italian immigrants in the rst half of the 20th century, but many Mission residents le in the 1950s aer the G.I. bill gave World WarII veterans an opportunity to move away from low-income areas. “White ight le a void thatpeople of color could ll,” says longme Mission-based community organizer Eric Quezada, point
-
ing to the inux of Mexican immigrants who moved into the neighborhood.
That community grew over the next several decades, and as turmoil gripped much of Central and
South America, new naonalies began popping up in the Mission. In recent years, young whiteshave ooded the western part of the neighborhood (the area closest to Mission High School),giving the neighborhood a disnct duality. On one block, you’ll walk past vegan restaurants andcoee shops, on the next, you enter a world of taquerias and tabernas.The Mission’s streets are lined on one side with murals that boast of the Lano community’s longhistory of polical acvism and on the other side with bouque shops that mark the district’s sta
-
tus as one of America’s hippest neighborhoods. But the Bears roster reects the fact that, despitethe Mission’s demographic dynamism, this is sll an immigrant-dominated community.Nearly all of the players on the team were born either outside the U.S. or are the children of par
-
ents born outside the U.S. About half the team is of Mexican heritage, and many others are Guate
-
malan or Salvadoran. There are no Anglos on the squad. Except the coach.
***
Sco Kennedy sits in silence on his folded-out lawn chair, watching the ritual he designed play outbefore his eyes. In parallel lines, Kennedy’s players jog back and forth across the eld, varying form
and pace to prepare their muscles for the match. He’s nervous.
The jiers that began today, when he awoke in his suburban Marin County home, are reachinga crescendo. It’s minutes before kicko. They will win, he believes. They will win and it won’t be
close. Five to one, maybe. Three goals for Jose Mendoza, the senior striker who hasn’t fully
realized his potenal—at least not unl this, the nal game of his high school career. Maybe aheaded-in score for Diego Tamayo, the junior midelder with the body of a linebacker and the
temper of a street-brawler. And several spectacular saves from Jose Guevara, of course.Guevara is the best goalkeeper in the city, a junior who has started since he was a freshman, thekid with the talent to play D-1 ball, the brain to aim for Stanford or Berkeley, and the leadership
skills to become only the second non-senior Kennedy has ever named captain.

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