This is Alba’s story. She’s got a lot of soccer in her life (as you will see). Her family and upbringing gave her the foundation to continue soccer as a passion as a player and supporter. Not everyone has that so she’s bringing her level of enthusiasm to everyone around her now. Also, she has a great idea below about what to do when you come across a player you admire — pay for their bar tab. How come I never thought of that!? We’re looking forward to sharing Liga MX thoughts from her this year!
Q: Tell us about your very first soccer game.
A: I can’t remember much about my first soccer game, but I do recall my uncle took me to play at the YMCA with my male cousins when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I slide-tackled a little boy from the back (not knowing any better) and the referee kicked me out of the game and I had to sit out the rest of the game watching the team play.
Playing with my male cousins at my grandma’s house, they would make me the goalkeeper and shoot the ball so hard at me… they didn’t have any sympathy that I was the only girl on the team. We had cement floors and we used the side wall of my grandma’s house as the goal and two trash cans to represent the poles. Those were the good old days, just being kids, and by the way I was about 5 years younger than all my male cousins.
Q: What team(s) do you follow, and what leagues are they in? How did you start following those teams?
A: The first team I followed while growing up and still do to this day is Las Chivas del Guadalajara, in the La Liga MX. I started following them because my brother and one of my cousins were big fans of theirs. It’s funny because my whole family would get together on Sundays at my grandma’s house in Ciudad Juárez and we would watch soccer all day. The rest of my family cheered for Club America so there was a rivalry. The other team I followed at the same time was the men’s Mexican national team, a family tradition.
As I grew older I started to follow Manchester United and Real Madrid because of my all-time favorite soccer player David Beckham who I followed wherever he played. I still follow him today even though he does not play.
Later on I also started to follow the U.S. Men’s National Team. I was not that aware of the U.S. Women’s National Team because the games were not shown on tv as they are now (which can still be improved upon).
Nowadays I watch as much soccer as I can. I follow multiple teams in MLS, NWSL (Washington Spirit), Barcelona, U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams, and the Men’s Mexican National Team. I started to watch MLS and NWSL more to show support for the U.S. and also I wanted to see the national players more often. I started watching Barcelona because of Messi and Piqué. I am a big fan of Piqué’s girlfriend Shakira and I started watching more Barca games and fell in love with how Messi just is one with the ball. I call him the Michael Jordan of soccer, a very casual and smooth player who never dives.
Q: What about the game hooked you?
A: It does not matter where you are from, anyone can play. I love that you can’t really make up plays to try and score, it really happens by knowing your team and creating plays as you go. There is no real planning in soccer… you just go with it and hope that your teammates will be at the right spot at the right time.
I don’t have to think about anything when I play. I just go out there having a good time and just make things happen. There’s also the crazy way players score goals and the moves that you can come up with when playing. It blows my mind.
Lastly, the love for the game from the fans and players. I feel like the fans feel the win as well as the defeat. That is something that can’t be thought. It’s a feeling within.
Q: With whom in your life do you share soccer?
A: I share soccer with anyone who is around me. I talk about it at work, at the gym with my friends and with my roommates. I think I try to share it with everyone around me even if they don’t understand it because of how I grew up surrounded by it with my entire family.
Recently I got my roommates into it. I even got one of them to play and he fell in love with it. He and his wife watch me play FIFA with the Spanish commentators and he is always asking what they are saying so he’s also learning Spanish!
I also share it with the U8-U9 girls that I started to coach last year.
Q: Have you traveled to any away games for your team? Where did you go and what was the experience like?
A: Yes, I have traveled to away games for my teams. I went to Houston for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final – it was Mexico vs. USA. I drove 12 hours from El Paso, Texas, only slept about 6 hours then went the game. Following that I traveled to Phoenix, AZ and Kansas City, Missouri for the U.S. Men’s World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil.
More recently I went to Orlando and Phoenix to watch the U.S. Women’s Victory tour in October and December of 2015. I am going to Dallas, TX for the Olympic Qualifiers in February 2016, to Tampa and to Nashville in March to see the women play against England and France. Also I’m planning to go to the Centenario Cup in June 2016.
It’s hard to pick one experience because they all have been amazing but one that comes to mind is when I went to Orlando to watch the women play against Brazil. I bought my self the VIP Experience package that U.S. soccer was offering as my birthday gift to myself. This experience was so amazing it’s hard to really express with words. I stayed in the same hotel as the team and talked to Jill Ellis on their open day training. I spoke with my favorite player, took a picture with her and got an autograph. The icing on the cake was getting a tour of the stadium the day of the game, taking a picture in the USWNT bench, and at the end of the game going to the tunnel and having the entire team sign my jersey. To add to this I was hanging out at the hotel bar and I saw Christie Rampone with her daughters. I went to the bartender and told her that I would pay for Rampone’s bill. Later on she came by and thanked me for the gesture. We talked for about 20 minutes about CrossFit!
Q: Do you have any personal soccer-related traditions? What are they?
A: As a player I do have some traditions. I always try to wear the same shorts, socks, and make sure that I put on my shin guards on with the right one first then left one, before putting on my cleats if my team won the game the weekend before, otherwise I try to change it up to change the luck. I also bless myself before walking onto the field and always take of my cleats on the field never walk with them on cement or drive with them on. When I do corner kicks and free kicks I always step back three steps then set up and go for the shot.
As a fan I make sure I am all geared up if I am meeting up with the American Outlaws at the official viewing bar and get there about an hour before games to get a good spot and just be prepared to start chanting and enjoying the game.
Growing up we used to have chants but they were all in Spanish so it’s a little different experience hanging out with the American Outlaws. I can definitely say that the American fans are nicer fans than Mexico fans. I as a Mexican can say that because I know how Mexican fans can be when it comes to soccer… not all of them are bad but some are.
Q: What is the impact soccer has had on your life? What has it brought to you that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
A: The impact that soccer has had in my life is tremendous. When I was growing up playing in the city league with my friends I loved the friendships I made. We all got along and wanted to be around each other all the time playing, practicing, and watching soccer. Those are friendships I still have today and soccer taught me dedication and commitment, and to try your best because you don’t want to let the team down.
It also taught me that if you wanted to get better at something you needed to work at it all the time not just during practice. I remember that after high school practices I would go home and watch videos of David Beckham shooting free kicks and corner kicks then the next day I would go to soccer practice and try to do the same thing that he did.
Soccer has introduced me to the American Outlaws and helped form new friendships. It has shown me that I am not the only crazy fan out there; that there are people who love this game as passionately as I do.
Soccer has brought me out of my shell a lot. I am introvert but when it involves soccer I am an extrovert and it has helped me see that I am not as shy as I thought.
Q: If you could tell everyone in the world one thing about soccer, what would it be?
A: I would tell them to give it a chance, to not just judge it because they don’t understand it. Also that it brings people together whether you are a man, woman, child, and regardless of nationality.
We can’t wait to share more of these wonderful women’s stories with you and want to hear yours. Tweet us at @WUnitedFC, or leave us a note in the contact box below and we would love to share your #WomenLoveSoccer story.