Of all the things my father brought with him when he first came to the United States from Mexico, his love of soccer has proven to be the most useful.
It helped him make his first friends in America as a 16-year-old living in Chicago's north side during the late 1970s. He couldn't yet speak the language, but he sure could play.
Later, my father’s passion for the beautiful game became a much-needed respite that carried him through the work week. As a child, I would tag along every Sunday to his recreational league games in Reynosa, Mexico, the neighboring border city across the river from Hidalgo, Texas, where he chose to lay our family's American roots. Nothing else mattered when he'd step on the pitch. The mortgage, bills, supporting a family of five — it's as if every worry, every bit of economic anxiety, melted away for those 90 minutes. I'd witness the weight of the world temporarily lift from his shoulders every time the referee blew the opening whistle. To this day, I can't think of another situation where I've seen him that at ease.