GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of people show up to soccer fields in the Grand Rapids area throughout the summer and fall to watch amateur teams play in local leagues.
On Saturday afternoon there was a big turnout for the match between Guatemala and Suchi. The teams faced off in the final of Grand Rapids’ Hispanic League.
Suchi won the match 1-0. Regardless of the outcome, Guatemala coach Anmer Mendez says he and his players look forward to taking part in the weekly games.
“We just work hard during the week and waiting for Sunday, Saturday to have fun and watch games,” Mendez said.
Guatemala is a team that has played in leagues in the Grand Rapids area for more than thirty years. The team has a large following with many Guatemalan fans showing up to support the team on a weekly basis.
“Look at all these people here,” said Alexis Mendez, Anmer Mendez’s brother who plays for the team. “Mostly fans that come here and follow our team. Just beautiful.”
The Mendez family has played an important role in the team’s history. Anmer Mendez joined the team as a player 25 years ago.
“This team, my uncles were the ones who started the team first,” Anmer Mendez says. “They retired and I came and took over pretty much and my brothers came in too.”
A total of six Mendez family members are a part of the current team. Anmer Mendez’s son Chris Mendez plays under his guidance, as do four of Anmer’s younger brothers.
Alexis Mendez is his youngest brother. He played collegiately at Davenport and Aquinas and professionally in Guatemala.
“My brother got it into my soul,” he said. “We grew up playing. Just in the blood.”
While the goal is to win games and titles, Anmer Mendez is grateful for the opportunity to share his passion for the sport with his family and the local Guatemalan community.
“It means everything,” Anmer Mendez said. “From where we come from, us brothers, we used to play on the streets there. We made our own ball with a bunch of plastic bags, that’s the history there.”