Michael Hernandez, left, of America battles Andrew Schaap of CFC on June 26 at the soccer fields at Norris and 14th streets in Clovis. (Staff photo: John Eisel)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
Like most Sundays in the spring and summer, men galloped about the sun-bathed jade grass June 26 at the soccer fields off 14th and Norris streets in Clovis.
Spanish dominated the shouting amongst the players. The soccer ball crossed the penalty box only to have the goalie clutch the ball and shout at his teammates to get down the field.
Blue-clad America and green and red highlighted CFC (Clovis Football Club) were battling in the first game of the second half of a Northwest Texas Soccer League game.
America’s Eduardo Lopez said the competition can get heated at times, even though most of the players on the two Clovis teams know each other.
“The whole competition is inside the field,” said Lopez, 32. “Outside the field we try to be friends.”
League president Jesus Duarte of Amarillo said the competitive fires blaze during the second-half playoffs, which start in August. The league recently finished the first half of the season, with the Portales Arsenal beating CFC 4-3 for the title. Arsenal will face the second-half champion to decide the overall champ.
Arsenal’s win was the first time a New Mexico team won a championship in the 13-year-old league, which has five teams in Clovis and Portales and five in nearby west Texas towns.
Duarte said men’s leagues also exist in Amarillo, Lubbock, Plainview, Texas, Hobbs and Roswell.
Like many players on the local teams, Lopez played soccer at Clovis High School, graduating in the early 1990s.
However, the local college team at Eastern New Mexico University didn’t exist, so they moved on to the adult league.
Lopez keeps playing for exercise and as stress relief from his job at the Foxrun restaurant, but he admits his playing days may be done soon. His children want him to start coaching their teams.
Lopez isn’t the oldest player by far, according to Duarte.
“There’s some people probably 42, 43 years old,” he said. The age limit is 14 or 15, as the guys sometimes get a little physical.
“We don’t want them to play too young, because some people get hurt,” Duarte said.
That physical play is a bonus for Andrew Schaap, who will be a senior at Clovis High School this fall. Schaap, who scored a goal in the game, said the league gives him a different style of play than in high school.
Playing his second year in the league, Schaap said the league allows him to play in a mostly stress-free environment.
“It’s funner because there’s not as much pressure,” he said.
Northwest Texas Soccer League
Town — teams
Hereford — Twisters, TBD
Portales — Arsenal
Friona — Fire
Bovina — Rayos
Clovis — America, Atlas, CFC (Clovis football club), Cobras
Muleshoe — Real Muleshoe
Information: Jesus Duarte, 806-251-5262