Junito: the Dreaded “Deboot” Edition

Junito, aka the chele chulo, who you have watched on this blog grow and learn to walk and kick a ball, is on the cusp of finally getting his US passport. And we know what that means: he is only nine years old, but will be eligible for the US youth national teams and maybe someday the senior team. Junito has now lived in the US for four years (almost), speaks fluent English, and is addicted to Minecraft but still finds time for Lego Star Wars. The inside joke around these parts was that I was crafting and molding Junito to be the savior of Real Madrid, the Nica-Mexi-American Messi who would restore balance to the force.

Now that he’s on the cusp of official Americanness, though, there’s one major problem: he has quit soccer. Continue reading “Junito: the Dreaded “Deboot” Edition” »

Junito: Heading for Greatness

So, in case you missed it, US Soccer recently settled a lawsuit by banning the heading of the ball by U10 clubs and restricting headers to “in practice only” for U12 youth teams. Lots of folks have chimed in on this. Not surprisingly, well-paid current and former pro soccer players who have not had their lives or careers derailed by concussions are against the ban. Some even claim the solution is to teach proper technique on headers, not ban the practice.

On the other hand, lots of scientific evidence seems to indicate that the brain is very much still forming at that age and repetitive heading of the ball can have deleterious health consequences. While former soccer players normally don’t suffer from the same scary issues as, say, former NFLers, this could possibly explain why Pele has predicted every single country will win the World Cup and, say, about two really rough decades of Diego Maradona’s life. Most importantly, the lawsuit compared soccer not to concussion-city American football, but other sports like softball, tennis, and basketball.

My take on this issue may surprise you. And, of course, it involves Junito. Continue reading “Junito: Heading for Greatness” »

Junito: The Importance of Winning

Every year, some parent blogger writes about how other parents are pricks for pushing their kids to play sports competitively and care about winning. I know this because I myself have been there. Junito plays on an elite soccer team, and I’ve noticed a great irony in youth sports: the higher the level, the more humble the parents. Yet the opposite is true. Basically, once you’ve seen just how good other kids are at a sport, you realize you and your kids’ place in the pecking order.

This is in contrast to rec leagues, where parents brawls and ref insult dot the land. In their heads, their kids are stars who can only be stopped by bad refs and cheating kids. They are Mourinhos but 10% more violent. Still, here’s the dilemma: their mind is misguided, but is their heart? Is there anything more American than hating losing? Is there a line to be walked? Continue reading “Junito: The Importance of Winning” »

Junito: Navigating Chutes & Ladders

My writing on Junito has grown intermittent the last few years, but rest assured, he continues to play footy at a high level on a regular basis. It has not been all smooth sailing. Yes, for the first few years after joining a soccer club, Junito loved to go to practice on weekdays. His energy reaffirmed our belief that he really likes soccer. However, another explanation lurked beneath the surface. At our last residence, we lived in a rougher part of town where he had few friends his own age, he could not run around outside unsupervised, and we had no game console. Thus, he was cooped up inside with no video game relief. Practice was an escape.

Flash forward two years. We live in a nicer neighborhood. Kids the same age as Junito flock around and form friendships. We even got a Wii, if only to allow his dad to assert MarioKart dominance on the SNES and N64 throwback levels. Junito continues to thrive at soccer and this year has started every single game for his club team. There’s just one problem: is his heart really in it? Continue reading “Junito: Navigating Chutes & Ladders” »

Junito: the Other Side of the Story

Every three to four months, the online media/writing world will produce a personal story about one of its own: a writer. The story will have one of two angles: either the writer admits that he or she can only afford writing because they come from a wealthy, privileged background, or he or she will talk about stepping away from a stressful but lucrative professional career to focus on family and becoming a writer for the job’s flexibility.

I have no beef with either of these stories: they are first-person narratives about personal growth. When done well, they’re like a 21st century It’s a Wonderful Life. Folks realize that family is important, especially when compared to the diminishing returns of wealth maximization via hours at the office. Still, they’re a bit solipsistic, a bit self-centered. Nobody dares to ask: what about other members of the family? How do they feel? Luckily, Real Madrid’s future greatest player ever Junito, an 8 year old whose dad recently changed jobs, has penned these slightly edited thoughts: Continue reading “Junito: the Other Side of the Story” »

Junito: An Unexpected & Abrupt Ending

On November 29, 2009, I unleashed my three-year old son Junito on the world of soccer and proudly chronicled his exploits. The task was simple enough: mold the greatest ever player for Real Madrid. We’ve all enjoyed the ups and downs, cried at the false early retirement, and were happy to see him come back stronger than ever. And had fun on Vimeo and Youtube. Sadly, though, it must end. Today.

There’s two problems: (1) Junito’s talent and (2) Me getting in the way. Continue reading “Junito: An Unexpected & Abrupt Ending” »

Junito: You Kant Have It All (All the Time)

I assure you, dearest and most loyal of readers, that the above image is not a fake. The name. The birth date. The location. The fixture. It’s all true. Melvin Arana, known in these parts as “Junito”, is officially unretired and….his first ever competitive game looms large.

What does that mean for our family, Junito and the soccerverse at large? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything. Continue reading “Junito: You Kant Have It All (All the Time)” »

The Junito Legacy: Those Burning Bright Thursday Night Lights

You just can’t keep a chele chulo down. Junito, not surprisingly, opted for a visit to Santa Claus instead of going to a soccer try-out when last I wrote. With the size of today’s chocolates, can you really blame him? Luckily, as a seven year old, it didn’t mean the end of the line. In fact, his team held four different try-outs and invited players to attend as many as possible.

Junito missed two due to a high temperature, but did strap on his boots for the last one. I know that you already know the results, but indulge me. Just this once. Continue reading “The Junito Legacy: Those Burning Bright Thursday Night Lights” »

The Junito Legacy: A Roadbump in Unretirement Plans

If Futfanatico pokes fun at folks who sometimes take themselves too seriously, then the Junito series from a few years back picked the perfect target: parents who treat youth soccer as life or death. However, the series hit a major snag: Junito resided in Nicaragua, was only three years old, and little league soccer opportunities were rare.

Now that Junito is in the states, just turned seven, and lives in a major metropolitan area, the question arises: not if the chele chulo will unretire, but when. The answer has finally arrived: now. As in, yesterday. Junito faced the most draconian of decisions, the ultimate fork in the road as to whether he will reach his potential as the greatest ever Footballer (and record goalscorer for Real Madrid) or just be a happy, well-adjusted human being.

He chose the former (though the latter is still a possibility). Continue reading “The Junito Legacy: A Roadbump in Unretirement Plans” »

Junito: the Chele Chulo Rises Reboot

Did radio kill the video star? Is iTunes killing the album? Are trailers killing the feature length film? For over a year, we salivated over Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night Rises. There was just one problem: we’d never even seen it. We feasted on crumbs and speculated on Frank Miller graphic novels. Come time to eat the meal, we left the dinner table still hungry. Already, folks speak of a reboot and a “Third Rock from the Gotham City Sun” spin. Uggh.

Sadly, the summer swirl of amateur athletes and transfer rumors can also let down fans. However, sometimes a singular event or person or act can shatter all our cynical, preconceived “Van Persie to City” notions. Sometimes, like “the Dark Knight,” greatness can transcend even the Webster dictionary definition of itself. I speak, of course, of Junito. And his possible return. Continue reading “Junito: the Chele Chulo Rises Reboot” »