Sports

Liga Latina soccer league aims to change perception...one goal at a time

Above: Members of the Liga Latina de Washington Llverpool team (in red) begin a drive against Santa Fe (in blue) at Sumner Middle School this past Sunday. Below: Liverpool and Santa Fe scrap for the ball during their match. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Above: Members of the Liga Latina de Washington Llverpool team (in red) begin a drive against Santa Fe (in blue) at Sumner Middle School this past Sunday. Below: Liverpool and Santa Fe scrap for the ball during their match.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

On the pitch, members of the Liverpool and Santa Fe soccer teams cluster anxiously around the lone referee. Words are exchanged and fingers pointed as the ref pulls out a red card – signifying that one of the players has earned his second infraction and will be sent off the field of play.

The player, a member of the Santa Fe team in blue, takes off his jersey as he walks dejectedly off the field.

On the sideline Victor Jauregui, president of the Liga Latina de Washington soccer league, waits for the player. Jauregui puts his arm around the ejected player, leans in close and whispers a few words of encouragement, calming the player down.

For Jauregui, it’s all part of his duty as the head of the two-year old Hispanic soccer league which plays it’s home games at Sumner and Lakeridge middle schools.

“Last year we had a team that fought a lot,” Jauregui says. “They’re not with us anymore. We had to ask them to leave.

“We try for a family feel here,” he continues. “Everybody comes with their wife and family and kids. If a team wants to fight, I have a friend who runs a boxing club. They can go there and put on the gloves.”

Liga Latina de Washington was started two years ago by Jauregui. Before that the Puyallup realtor had sponsored a team in a league in Puyallup. Fed up by the disorganization of his former league and the constant schedule changes, Jauregui said he was encouraged to start a new league catering to the area’s large Hispanic population.

“They would change the times the night before a game,” he says. “So a couple of other teams said that if I started a league they would come with.”

Soon Liga Latina was off and running. This season the league boasts 19 teams, playing a 12-week schedule with three postseason games, all at local Sumner School District fields with the championship game played at Sunset Chev Stadium.

Jauregui, who is originally from Peru but has been in the United States for 24 years, said that although the league is prominently Hispanic, it is open to everybody.

“Some of the teams have Caucasians and African-Americans,” he says.

At the heart of the league is Jauregui’s love of the game of soccer.

“I play in an over-40 league, but I have to travel to North Seattle right now,” he says. “The plan is to make an over-40 league here also. My dream is to grow this league like the Ninos (Heroes Soccer League) in Tacoma.”

Currently the Ninos boast 44 teams in the Tacoma area.

Since Jauregui first moved to the United States in the 1980s, he says he has seen many changes in soccer in this country.

“It has become much more popular,” he says. “It used to be that Mexico beat the United States (in World Cup play) every time. Now it’s the other way around. They have gotten much better.”

Currently Liga Latina is a member of the Washington State Soccer Association.

“We’re very excited about that,” Jauregui says. “They provide insurance. You have to have insurance for everything here.”

A citizen of the United States since 1995, Jauregui says that although the prime goal of the league was to play soccer, he’s also aware of the need to change the perception some people have about Hispanics.

“I try to change the vision that some people have of us,” he says. “A lot of people think that Spanish people come in and just make trouble. We try hard to clean up and change people’s attitudes about us. Every race has some bad and some good people. I say just believe in us and what we’re trying to do.”

Liga Latina de Washington plays their league games at Sumner and Lakeridge middle schools from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

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