Monday, June 27, 2011

Futbol in Colombia

I have been watching this man play soccer for almost 20 years. And I have been a fan of the game for much longer than that. I love sitting outside on the grass and watching a good soccer game.

After a year of living here, Aaron finally found an adult league that needed another player through a connection at our church, Tierra Linda. He agreed to play on most Sundays with them. Usually, the games are so far away that we don't go to watch, but this past Sunday it was closer and we were able to go enjoy a beautiful day outdoors watching him play.

Soccer, as well as other rigorous sporting events, has a profound mental health affect on Aaron. I contest it is just as strong as Prozac might be for him, taking the edge off of stress, depression, or anxiety. He comes home feeling relaxed and ready to go. For this, it is definitely worth it for him to take the time to work out. And, while it is sometimes frustrating that his almost-40 year old body cannot do the same things as his 20 year old body could he still outplays a lot of younger Colombians and is a valued member of his team.

In addition to personal frustrations, he has experienced some cultural frustrations as well. We talked about this together, and he explained a little more about these factors.

In general, there is good individual skill, an instinctual knowledge about how to play strategically, but there is a lack of refinement because it has all been informal. For this reason, the most detrimental aspect of the game is mental. Some people theorize that this is why Colombia has not made their mark in the international soccer arena, and the effect of a traumatized society comes through in the game. Talent is used as self-protection, self-promotion, not as a way to contribute to a greater good.

Colombia is a highly relational, verbal, and hierarchical culture which values individual expression of opinion and judgement. This gets expressed on the field by difficult teamwork. It is more common to see a lot of critique (yelling at each other) about individual play, competition between players of the same team, and "ball hogging."

This is not so different than the "norms" of cutting in line, running lights, and not waiting for pedestrians. People are trying to get ahead of each other. "If I have something, I do what I can to keep it and if I have an opportunity to get more, I take it." It becomes very individualistic.

As a man who has coached and analyzed soccer for years, this can be very frustrating. But I am proud that he is making connections, new understandings, fostering his love of the game, and getting some of what he needs physically. And it was so very fun for all of us to watch him play again.

Andy made friends and hunted for bugs right away, and there was a good amount of physical contact between siblings who were glad to be together again.


  1. yeah for figuring out what works. i love that.

  2. Nice cultural lesson through the soccer experience!