The Passage of Time…


Santos1982

I was invited to a party the other night when a dear friend was being honored for his services for our local Soccer Organization. His was for forty five years of service as the Legal Council and founder member of this League from all of that time ago.

I first met Phil just after I moved to Texas in 1977 with my third wife, Susan. We had moved down from New York State mainly because of a job offer that I had and also to get as far away from the awful winters that is a part of that State’s makeup. We settled in Austin and Susan, knowing that I liked to play soccer (football to the rest of the world), asked around and finally hooked up with Phil who asked me to come and practice with his team named Santos. He considered me good enough that I signed on to play. I played for the team for a few years and also the subsequent team named Santigous formed to play in an Over 30 division as the younger punks in Division 1 were really running us ragged. Time and age was already catching up with us.

Over the course of the next thirty or so years, our paths crossed on the soccer fields and in the League Meetings where I was also very active as the Administrator. Although we never played together again, we remained good friends until I finally quit the soccer scene in 2008 due to knee problems. I had one knee replaced but have managed to get by on the other even though the cartilage has gone. As it doesn’t hurt, why mess with it. Phil is still showing up to the fields to play although he is suffering from macular degeneration and can’t see worth a damn but he likes the company and camaraderie that playing with a bunch of old guys that you have known for a very long time, brings.

The party was a surprise and even though eighty odd people had been invited, the secret never got out and Phil was suitably impressed when he walked in the door to the cheers and claps of all of those present. We had all been asked to arrive early, get a drink and socialize which wasn’t hard to do as we were in the company of people that we hadn’t seen in years. It was interesting to see someone you recognized but could not place a name and in other cases, the name came straight back to you. I had the unfortunate distinction of being the oldest person there although many others were not that far behind. As I surveyed the scene trying to recall the names of the many men gathered there, I was struck by the fact that  the passage of time had not been kind to some of them. In some cases, it was hard to recognize them as their faces had grown old and their bodies had shrunk with the passing of time. I compared them now to when they were playing all much younger healthier and vibrant men and bemoaned that the passing of time is so cruel. Many of the men were still playing albeit in the Over 50 division and at a much slower pace but they still enjoyed the game and the company of their fellow players.  Team sports and football in particular does that for you.

The evening ended following a procession of speakers who made their way up to the mic to relay what Phil had done for them in their lives. Everyone spoke in glowing terms of his different exploits both on and off the soccer fields recalling memories of Soccer Camps of long ago, notable games against teams long gone and of the players who have passed on. All in all, the evening was a huge success for those of us lucky to attend to honor a very dear friend for his outstanding soccer accomplishments.

Written 8/13/2018

 

This and That…


child_games_in_wonderful_soccer_dreams

I commented in the last couple of blogs just how hot it is here in my part of  Central Texas. It is like this every year with some years worse than others. The record was set in 2011 when Austin at Camp Mabry, one of the weather recording centers, registered 83 consecutive days with the temperatures 100 degrees or more. It doesn’t matter what way you look at it, that was a bloody hot summer. Luckily, the humidity was low which made it a little more bearable.

We have just had our first 100 degree days this past week with the thermometer reaching 100 on three consecutive days. There are thunderstorms forecast for the next couple of days which will bring some welcome relief. Along with the high temperatures there are all sort of bye products caused by the heat. Things like high electric bills with the A/C units at full blast and in many cases, replacement units due to the older models breaking down. Try to imagine what the inside of a house is like with no A/C when the outside temperature is 100 degrees or higher. Fans are a big help but they only move the hot air around as they don’t cool it.

If you are an avid gardener, it is a heartbreaking struggle to keep your precious plants alive especially if you are on city water and there are watering restrictions. Austin gets most of its water from the Highland Lakes which is a chain of six freshwater lakes in Central Texas formed by six dams on the lower Colorado River. A heat wave like the one in 2011 actually lowered the lake water quite considerably as the water evaporates along with the demands from all of the Municipalities downstream. It took several years for the lake levels to return to normal after that and it was officially declared a drought.

In my younger days, thirty or so years ago, I was still an avid soccer player at the top Amateur level. The teams I played with would often go away to Tournaments in Dallas or Houston or sometimes even further afield to New Orleans or Florida. These Tournaments were nearly always in the summer, again the hottest time of the year but although they were competitive, it was only for fun. Apart from getting to play several games over a weekend, we went for the company and camaraderie that belonging to a team brings. And the beer of course, lots of beer. I remember on two separate occasions, one in Dallas and the other in Houston when the heat got to us more than usual.

The Dallas Tournament was played on a large soccer complex which like all such complexes was built with very little shade around the fields. Our particular field had Flood Lights surrounding the field mounted on six, sixty foot metal poles. This was the only shade close to the field and spectators and players not in the game were all standing in a line in the shadow of the poles with a larger group at the end where the bank of lights projected a bigger shadow. It was pretty funny. The actual temperature that day was 108 degrees, the hottest that I have ever played in. The game itself was played in slow motion with the players trying to conserve as much energy as possible and when they wanted to sub out, they had the greatest difficulty in finding someone to take their place.  Usually, subs are lined up just waiting to get into the game but not on that particular day. I can’t remember much about the game or even if we won as the heat was the overriding factor for all of us.

The Tournament in Houston was very much the same with very high temperatures. The difference was that in Houston, being close to the sea, the humidity was through the roof which made it appear to be much hotter than it really was. Humidity saps the strength right out of you whether you are used to it or not. The same thing happened as in the Dallas Tournament except there were no floodlights to provide shade. In the second half players were subbing in and out at a tremendous rate as in these Amateur games, subs are unlimited. In the end, it got to where you couldn’t find anyone willing to go back in which meant that you had to stay on the field or if you came off anyway, the team had to play short. That game was truly a miserable experience for both teams. I can’t remember who won and in truth, really didn’t care.

On the home front with all of my ponds, I have to be very careful to make sure that there is no water wastage from anywhere. As it is, keeping the water cool enough for the Koi and Goldfish during these periods of high temperatures is a difficult task. The only real way is to keep the water moving with waterfalls and water features and plant lots of Lilies and water shading plants. The other big problem it to maintain the oxygen levels in the water as the heat tends to deplete the amount of oxygen. I have separate bubblers in all of my ponds which this time of the year are running non stop and even with these precautions, it not a bit unusual to find fish floating on the top.

I have all native plants in my garden which I tend to let grow wild only trimming them where my pathways are or maybe to keep them from crowding out the other growth. If I  have to water them to keep them alive I have installed an underground soaker hose system which if absolutely necessary, will run at night on timers. This is enough to keep the plants alive without wasting too much water in overspill. My garden is really a jungle in disguise which makes it much easier to maintain.

The one redeeming factor is that we can look forward to the Hurricane Season and since 80% of the North Atlantic Hurricanes form from June through October, hurricane season is declared from June 1 to November 30. The months when storms are most frequent on the Texas coast are August and September. If we do get any at all and that is not a certainty, we will probably get cooler temperatures and rain which if it is in excessive amounts will bring its own problems.

Texas has a saying, “If you don’t like the Texas weather, just wait five minutes and it will change”. This saying is also credited to many other States to which it can apply.

Written on another hot day in Texas.
7/3/2018

 

Old Friends


lp3-mckinney

I ran into a old friend the other day
in the SuperMarket as we shopped
both bachelors so shopping was not hard
as we were both set in our ways.

Neither of us could remember the others name
as we had not seen each other in a while
so we awkwardly re-introduced ourselves
and laughed as we commented about our slow brains.

The conversation turned to soccer
as that is where we first met
playing on the same old man’s team
pretending to be young again like no other.

We had a good laugh as we shared a joke
and shook hands as we went on our way
knowing better than to say, let’s get together
of that there was no hope.

We had not  bothered to stay in touch
and our mutual interest was long gone
as age had taken its toll
and the game no longer held us in its clutch.

I resumed my walk around the store
thinking about the years gone by
of the games we played and the people we met
and wished there had been much more.

Alas time has dealt us a terrible blow
weak in body and mind as the years pass by
and all of the friends we used to know
not even a memory left to show.

Written 9/26/2017

Blank Screen and Blank Thoughts…


epl-table-2015-live-score-results-channel-today-game-epl-tableI turned on my computer and brought up my blog site with a fresh clean page all ready for me to peck away with many words of wisdom.
I stared and stared and nothing came to mind, just a blank screen looking back at me.
I thought of all of the subjects that I have written about in the past and that still didn’t help.
Maybe a poem, I thought but I could not think of what to rhyme about so I gave up on that idea.
I have spent this past week working on the Austin Pond Society web site. Now, it is finished and I can’t think of anything else to do to it for a while.
Night has fallen and it is dark outside so I can’t work on the ponds or go for a hike.
It would appear that my mind is a blank and needs firing up a little.
To hell with writing, I am going to watch the English Premier League and my favorite soccer teams…Manu

Kicking a ball…


rangers getting coached right

Half Time Talk

When I was a kid and still very young
my whole idea of having fun
was to get with my mates and kick a ball
and the girls would cheer and watch us run
no interest in them that I can recall.

Moving along in just a few years
my mates and I still kicked the ball
but this time we tried to impress the girls
hoping that one would not like them all
but pick one of us that was most enthralled.

As time moved on the girls came first
as many of us settled down
married with kids not much time for games
life was never ever the same
on weekends we still got together and kicked a ball

Further on down the line
marriages failed and its alimony time
visit the kids once a month
and maybe take them to one of our games
this time in the older guys league we played.

Time has passed and the kids have grown
and they all play in a league of their own
trying to impress the watching girls
choosing a mate as life unfurls
and it all starts with kicking a ball.

Now I am old and life has passed by
the closest I come to kicking a ball
is to cheer on my team as I watch them play
thinking of what were the good old days
when we were just starting along our way.

“Football, English Style is good for the soul”

 

What a party.


12649730-Party-items-on-blue-background-Stock-Photo-party-birthday-kidsAs I reported in an earlier blog a couple of days ago, I have just had my 80th birthday. A week or so prior, one of my friends called to ask what I was doing and “how about we get a couple of the Allies together and go to dinner”.

The Allies, for those of you not familiar with my background, was a very competitive adult women’s soccer team that was formed more than 25 years ago. I had both the luxury and frustration of coaching them for many of their years. The original team when we first put the team together prior to 1983 was named after the Redstone Ranch who sponsored the team in its early days. The original idea was to try to raise the competitive level of soccer in Austin with a team that could compete against both the Houston and Dallas teams at all levels. As the team evolved over the years, it changed the name to the “Austin Allies” later dropping Austin from the name to become the “Allies”.

The players were constantly changing and the team went through several reiterations of itself before settling on a group of highly talented and dedicated players willing to work hard, train hard and play even harder. There were a couple of players that came over from Sweden to play for us for a couple of years and we often had really good players that would come in and guest play for us in the major tournaments. The team was made up of players from different nationalities and we didn’t care what nationality that was or how young or old they were as long as they could play”the beautiful game”. This group stuck together for many years and indeed a few of the players are still playing. The team has maintained its name and for the past several years, has competed in the Austin Women’s Soccer League having recruited a bunch of new and younger players as the time went on. A far cry from when they competed in the Over 30 division of the local men’s soccer league in order to have stronger weekly competition that the then current local women’s teams could provide.

Many of this original group were the ones planning this little get together of “just a couple of friends”. Knowing Suzanne, the player who had called me originally, I kinda suspected that she and the rest of them, were not going to be satisfied with just a couple of them showing up and when I walked into  Flores Mexican Restaurant on William Cannon, there were more than 15 or so of them there. It was great to be greeted by so many smiling faces and lots of hugs and kisses and just a few tears, including my own. My friends George and  Gloria and later her daughter all showed up to add to the excitement. Gloria told me later that they had been a part of the organization of this party with it originally going to be at her house.

With the greetings out-of-the-way, the stories started to flow as some of the girls recounted the things they remembered most about some of our travels and the games we had played in. It was difficult to spend time with everyone and I know that I missed a few people and I apologise for that. Most of them are married with kids and all of them look really good and it was not hard to believe that they had been and in some cases, still are, super athletes in their younger days. At least 3 of the ladies have daughters of their own getting ready to enter college and hoping for soccer scholarships. They are that good as their mothers skills have been handed down to them.

As with all social get together of this kind, the stories came thick and fast of the many places we had been for tournaments and the magical moments that had occurred at some of them, not all of which were on the playing field. Stories like the time we won the Texas State Cup when we beat our local rivals, a team called Thunder coached by Ray Iddendun in penalty kicks after our full back, “Pecker” had tied the game up in the dying minutes of overtime sending the game into those penalty kicks.  Our goalkeeper, Lisa saved 2 of Thunders first 3 kicks with the other one going wide. We made all 3 of ours to win. Much different than when we went to Corpus Christi for a tournament and it went to 12 kicks each side before we won.

Or when we played a team from Florida in one of the National Championships who had a very large, very tall and very talented center forward that our team had nicknamed “The House”and Suzanne, who at the time probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet, had the very difficult task of trying to contain her.

A special mention must be made of one tournament we went to that another of our players had flown in separately to join us. We all partied the night before the last days worth of games and one of our group, had a little too much to drink. She played the next day with a hangover and I swear that the other girls had to point her in the direction of the goal that we were trying score in. She managed to get through the game with regular intervals to throw up on the pitch much to the other teams disgust. We won the game and maybe the throwing up gave us the edge as the other team didn’t want to get near her. We took her to the airport as she was flying home on a separate flight and the last we saw of her was her forlorn looking figure as she made her still hungover way to catch her return flight. When we returned to practice the following week, the big story was Laurie’s hangover and it took a while for her to live it down.

The stories went on and on and then someone mentioned “the van”. For the uninformed, the van was a big Blue Ford converted van that we used to drive to many of these fairly local games and tournaments. Places like Beaumont, Corpus Christi, New Orleans and such. There would be as many as 7-8 young women all crowded together and me, the only male as the driver. Well, I might just as well have been made of stone or maybe, not even have existed, when the ladies got wound up especially if someone had brought beer. The things I heard would have made their mothers blush or even worse, be shocked that their darling daughter could talk about such things and in such a descriptive way. They would have been more shocked to know that in many of the stories, they were recounting actual things that had happened either to them or with them. Me, I just sat there and smiled occasionally at any particular juicy piece came out. I have always said that I can do one of two things. Either write a bestseller entitled, The Van, You Wouldn’t Believe What I Just Heard… or I could just plain blackmail the girls for me to keep quiet. It was all good fun and passed many miles of otherwise tedious journeys which by the way were never straight through as with all of that beer, it required many pit stops sometimes with only a solitary tree or a bush in sight.

There was a lot of picture-taking with the new fangled cell phones and funny hats and glasses which I noticed that I was the only one wearing. Whats up with that? There were presents and a cake that luckily only had a dozen or so candles and not the required number of 80, which I managed to blow out at one time.

As the evening wound down and after enjoying the very good Mexican Food from Flores Restaurant, the girls began to leave in one’s and two’s all coming to say goodbye and kiss me on the cheek and give me a hug. Some whispered thanks in my ear  and I had to fight hard to keep the tears from flowing as did they. Finally, those remaining gathered together for a last group photo rich with the memories of days gone by and years lost in time. We all have our own memories of those wonderful times with such a talented group of young ladies. It must be said that my own marriage had ended in the early days of this team and having the friendship of all of these ladies helped me get through those difficult times.

As a team, the ladies and I travelled to many tournaments at the State and National level managing to reach the National Finals twice only to lose both of them. There were many successes over about a 10 year period. I coached those ladies until the year 2000 when I decided to move on to coaching youth. I have to say, that it was just not the same. Different challenges, different ages, some successes but not the same camaraderie that had developed with the Allies and no Blue Van.

When we are young, time is something we do not even think about. As we grow older, it becomes more important because we realize that it is slowly running out. All of us that gathered together this evening to recount those memories of times gone by are all a lot richer for having been a part of them. These are memories that I cherish and will carry with me to my grave.

Thank you ladies for allowing me to be a part of your lives.


If you click on the first picture, it will go full size and then use the side arrows to see the next picture. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal

Efrain Loayza


Efrain Loayza

Efrain Loayza

AUSTIN SOCCER COMMUNITY LOSES ANOTHER ICON.

The Austin soccer community lost another one of its own on August 25, 2014 when Efrain Loayza passed on to play in that big soccer field in the sky.

Efrain first jumped into the spotlight when he formed and played with the Peru Soccer Team around 1977. They played in the First Division of the Austin Municipal Soccer League (AMSA) as it was known back then and went on to win the division for the first time in 1977. They later won the division again in 1981 and were a highly competitive team to play against.

In later years, as many of the players grew too old to play Division 1 soccer, Efrain formed the team known as Chez Nous playing them in the AMSA Over 30 division. By now the League had changed its name to Austin Men’s Soccer Association and as an Over 30 team, Chez Nous won the top Over 30 division several times and were always known as the team to beat. Efrain in his playing days had a reputation for his ferocious tackling and no-nonsense play. With him on the field, everyone knew what to expect, 100% effort for the entire game. One of these tackles led to him getting an ankle injury that subsequently forced him to retire from actively playing. Early on, Efrain coached a women’s team and rumor has it, that is where he met his wife, Katherine.

The Onion Creek Field Dedication Ceremony

The Onion Creek Field Dedication Ceremony

Although, no longer able to play, Efrain became the manager for the Chez Nous team which he did right up until the team retired from the league a couple of years ago. Prior to this, Efrain had become active in the running of AMSA. The league had grown under the different Presidents and had well over a hundred teams playing every weekend. There was a general consensus among a couple of the very influential members of the Board that it would be very practical to own and maintain our own soccer fields. A general move was made with that in mind but no specific plans were put in place.

Efrain also had his own opinions about the State Association that AMSA belonged to. Consequently, he ran for Vice President with a view to changing the way that the Association did business with  the teams. He served one two-year term before deciding that his services would be put to better use at the local level.

In 2002, Efrain became the President of AMSA and really began a push with the intent on finding land enough for several soccer fields that AMSA could develop. In the meantime, the City of Austin had passed a bond to acquire land to build a dozen or so fields but lacked the resources to develop them. With Efrain as the point man, Brian Hardin as the “money man” and Jim Alsup providing the legal counsel, an agreement was reached with the city for the City to partner with AMSA to develop Onion Creek into a soccer complex that AMSA would maintain and have the full use of.

Peru Soccer Team 1977

Peru Soccer Team 1977

In retrospect, it was a perfect storm of events. A Spanish-speaking AMSA President dealing with an Hispanic PARD Director to work out the details of this deal. He was the “Right Man in the Right Place” to make this happen and it is doubtful if it would have happened at all without Efrain’s drive and passion regarding AMSA owning its own soccer fields and his willingness to deal with both PARD and the Austin City Council.

It is only fitting that Efrain has found his final resting place under the green grass of the fields he worked so hard to acquire and that he loved so much. Even though many of us had our disagreements with him from time to time. there was no doubting his drive and determination in working with the City, with Brian Hardin and Jim Alsup, the other members of the group that helped negotiate the deal, the Captains and members of AMSA and his successor, Mark Gregg whose contribution cannot be understated in setting up the details of the care and maintenance of the fields.

On a personal note, Efrain got me out of a jamb one time and for that I shall be eternally grateful. He was a very colorful

Balloon Release over his tree

Balloon Release over his tree

character and the Austin Men’s Soccer Association has benefited greatly with his association. He was also a devoted family man to his wife Katherine and his son Nico and daughter Alex. He reserved one night each a week for his children and nothing short of a world catastrophe would get him to break those engagements.

There are now two very well-known personalities of the Austin Men’s Soccer Association who have found there final resting place on the green soccer fields of Onion Creek. They were both very different but both had the same goals and foresight in developing the fields that others could enjoy the fruits of their collective efforts.

Rest in Peace, Efrain Loayza. We will miss you.

Efrain Loayza Memorial Gathering from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Music by Habib Koite and Bamada entitled Din Din Wo (Little Child).