When most people in the south, let alone Tennessee, hear the word “football,” suddenly there’s raving excitement and chants of “Roll Tide,” “VFL,” or anything SEC- or college football-related. Yet for others the term “football” will more than likely resonate with a different pastime from across the pond. Futbol, or soccer as we predominately call it in the States, has been a rising entity throughout the years and has rapidly been reaching its peak in popularity. With two World Cups in our rear-view mirrors, our U.S. men’s national team making a surprising run in Brazil (though falling short to Belgium), and our U.S. women’s national team coming off a World Cup win this past summer in Canada, it’s apparent that domestically the growth of soccer and its players have made a strong statement in a very short period of time. More importantly I find truth in this statement locally in our very own community of Jackson.
On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, several eager footballers, including myself, brought their skills to showcase in front of a small panel of Jackson Futbol Club coaches at the North Park soccer fields. Why exactly? Hopes of being a part of an adult men’s club soccer team, an extension of the already established club soccer system, Jackson Wolves. The primary goal and focus for Jackson Wolves and other club teams across the country is to provide an opportunity for boys and girls of their area to experience a higher level of soccer and to develop player skills to the greatest level attainable so that they have the ability to compete at the highest level. After age eighteen, teenagers have to stop playing club soccer and either play college, semi-professional, or professional soccer, but not all of us are that fortunate. To lengthen the tiers in which the young footballers compete within, the idea of a men’s adult club team was brought forth to give them the opportunity play at the next level while staying within the club soccer system. One of the major goals that this particular team plans to pursue in the near future is becoming a semi-professional soccer team much like Nashville FC and Chattanooga FC; both compete in the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League). It is not an easy feat to tackle with sponsors needed and wins under their belts, but we all have high hopes for the future.
Having a team like this in our community is a spectacular accomplishment to begin with and exemplifies the growth of the sport in Jackson. Soccer is often overshadowed in Jackson in the midst of our more popular sports, nevertheless soccer in Jackson is larger and stronger than most realize. With outlets such as JAWS (Jackson Area Wide Soccer) and Jackson Futbol Club, there are so many people that love and support the game. The biggest portion of our citizens that have a strong love and support for soccer is by far our Hispanic community, and I have experienced it first-hand.
When I first moved to Jackson from Smyrna, Tennessee, I knew no one other than my grandparents. The only thing that I carried with me from my hometown was my love for soccer. That passion quickly aided me in making acquaintances that have quickly turned to friends. I was so used to being able to play soccer with my friends at any spur of the moment, and realizing that hardly anyone here did that was rough. So when I realized there was a group that played at North Park everyday on the in-line hockey rinks, you better believe I was there—even though it seemed intimidating at first being the only person not being able to understand or speak Spanish fluently.
It’s been almost year since I first started going, and now I play with this same group on Sunday mornings at Kate Campbell Park in a Hispanic soccer league and still play with them at North Park almost every day. While playing with my team on Sundays I’ve taken account of the unified passion everyone exerts when they play. A few weeks ago a player on one the teams got severely injured during a game, and since then everyone in the league has banded together to raise money and help with the costs.
Be encouraged on what’s going on in the soccer world of your city. It is strong and constantly growing. Even those of you who don’t play soccer can support the soccer community. Soccer is often forgotten amongst more popular sports in this city. The possibilities are endless with how we can grow soccer in Jackson. How often do they even play in-line hockey at North Park? Hardly at all, I assume. I am confident that more soccer has been played there than hockey. Let's renovate the rinks to make them more soccer-specific and make it visually appealing, or even work on building a soccer complex in Jackson. Jackson has a baseball complex, and there is work being done on making a tennis complex across from North Park. Why stop there?