Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Hawaii --
“Hooligans” are ganging up to take command of this season’s intramural soccer season.
The team of 3rd Marine Regiment footballers made their debut earlier this month after playing in several pre-season games. The players said their aim is to have fun while testing their skills on the field.
“We have a wide range of talent,” said Michael Garcia, the team’s coordinator and a native of Yulee, Fla. “Some team members have been playing their whole life. For others, it’s their first year.”
With a large group of players, Garcia said it made sense to name the team after strong-armed soccer fans like those depicted in the 2005 film “Green Street Hooligans.” The team may not get as violent as other soccer devotees, but several players said their team unity is just as solid.
Nick Lanza, a Hooligans goalie, said the transition from being strangers to teammates has brought out a united fighting spirit in his team.
“Playing soccer is a release for us,” Lanza said. “This is completely voluntary, and none of us want to bring anyone on the team down.”
Although Garcia schedules team meetings and practices, he and the rest of the Hooligans said the team doesn’t have a specific coach. Any team member can voice their opinion on plays, whether they are beginners to the game or were previously college soccer athletes and club team members.
“Before practice is over we’ll just reflect and discuss what happened,” said Rafael Rodriguez, a Hooligans forward. “It’s not just about improving coordination, but talking about how someone might have seen something from a different angle.”
In their downtime, Garcia said the Hooligans strive to master key soccer maneuvers. During their practice drills, the group meets for several hours each week to practice basic triangle passing and ball control.
“We’re trying to keep it simple,” said Erick Sanchez Limon, a Hooligans midfielder. “Especially for the people who’ve never played, we try to encourage them to learn more passes and know when to kick the ball across the field.”
Several Hooligans said as a new team their main challenges are moving together as a fluid group and ensuring players call out the ever-changing conditions for a game. In his experience, Rodriguez said good soccer teams need good communication. Otherwise, they’re left at the bad end of the field.
Garcia said he’s noticed a dramatic difference in skills from the group’s first day of practice to the group’s performance in the intramural league.
“I see us now, and I think we’re different players,” Garcia said. “We work so hard on the basics, teaching the fundamentals like any other sport.”
What hasn’t changed for many of the Hooligans since officially forming the team is their love of soccer. For the more than 20 players on the Hooligan’s roster, several have stories of their die-hard desire to play the game. For Garcia, the moment came as a senior in high school when he continued playing in the last match of his final season with a rolled ankle.
Garcia said the mix of competing against his personal limits makes him eager to play hard in soccer whenever the opportunity comes up.
“In any other sport there’s downtime, with timeouts,” Garcia said. “Basketball has a rest at the end of a period, but with soccer there’s the 30-minute half and it’s all out the whole time. There’s no time out, you need to give everything you got.”
Garcia and his teammates, like any of soccer’s many Hooligans, do whatever it takes to come out on top.