What the neighborhood, located just outside Mexico City, did have was an abundance of streets, and when the traditional pitch wasn’t available, which as it turned out was quite often, Villa and his buddies would frequently turn to this makeshift alternative for a game.
“That’s usually where we ended up playing,” Villa recalls. “Every three or four minutes a car would drive by and we would have to stop, but would pick right back up after it passed. That’s the great thing about soccer. You can play anywhere. We didn’t have a net. We didn’t need one. We would just place a rock on each side and call that our goal. We used anything but a soccer ball when we played.”
And Villa means anything. A popular practice was balling up some dirty clothes when nothing else would suffice.
“It didn’t always work out the best,” Villa said with a laugh about the laundry-based tactic of playing, “but if it was round we’d kick it. I absolutely loved it.”
As a sixth grader, Villa and his family moved to Lacey where he was enrolled at Woodland Elementary.
“It was a complete culture shock. Everything was different. I had never seen snow before,” said Villa, a 1989 Timberline graduate who now works for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. “I remember we arrived on a Monday and I was in school that Wednesday. I couldn’t speak English very well. They had this little Spanish dictionary out, trying to talk to me. It was difficult.”
Then recess hit and despite the language barrier, things became a touch easier.
“That first recess (the students) came up to me and handed me a soccer ball,” said a smiling Villa. “I remember thinking, ‘OK, this I know.’ And we just went out and played. Soccer actually really helped me make the transition here smoother. We didn’t have to talk and everyone understood what everyone was doing. It helped me build friends and become more comfortable. The sport has just stuck with me ever since.”
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