Adult league caters to Latin community

Published 11:54 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One of two local soccer organizations keeps the Latin community in good health and also provides those who love soccer with fun and entertainment.

With certain restrictions in place in other soccer leagues Jose Gutierrez started up his own league, the United Latin Soccer League. That league is comprised of members 18 and older. Gutierrez said the league started with about six teams but now has 10. Seven of those teams are in Pearl River County, two are in Slidell, La. and another is in Bay St. Louis.

“It’s really taken off,” Gutierrez said.

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Each team has about 18 people on its roster and games are held at Friendship Park. Those games also bring people to town who visit local businesses and add to the local economy.

To ensure the participants and spectators leave the field trash free, Gutierrez said he pays someone to help clean up after competitions. Each team pitches in about $7 to help pay that person.

While there is a fee to register to play in the league, Gutierrez said he does not make any money from the league. Fee money is used to donate about $100 of the total funds collected to the city for the use of the park and to purchase trophies, such as for the best team and best coach.

The league was started in 2005. Early on players would travel to Laurel to play, which is about a three-hour round trip. Then the teams would meet up and just hold scrimmages locally. Soon, other teams began to form and six teams were vying for field time.

Four years later the league is still growing. With three more local teams expressing interest in joining the league, Gutierrez and another league in Slidell are discussing uniting and competing with each other. If that happens, there would be home and away games.

“I’m looking forward to doing something like that ’cause it would be exciting to play against new teams,” Gutierrez said.

Competitions are often held outside of the season, such as on Christmas Day. This Friday, which is Christmas Day, Gutierrez plans to hold a quick tournament comprised of the four best teams in his league. The winning team will receive a trophy. Gutierrez’s team has won four out of the past five season championships held at Friendship park.

Outside of his own play time, Gutierrez said he has thought about coaching high school soccer, but has no official plans to do so yet. He is also a local business man. Gutierrez owns three restaurants in Pearl River County, two in Picayune and one in Poplarville.

In the future Gutierrez would like to see his league play year round, but the league would need its own field to do that to avoid conflicts with the Pearl River Futbol Club’s play time. The Futbol Club is the local youth league. Currently, there is a scheduling system so the two organizations can share the field at Friendship Park.

“They’re our future, you know,” Gutierrez said about the youth league.

He is considering buying some land in the county to establish the United Latin Soccer League’s own field, which might include a taco stand.

The United Latin Soccer League’s their initial schedule takes place from mid February to March. Usually three weeks after that short season ends teams usually call Gutierrez to set up more games, which lead to more seasons, he said. Those extra games usually lead to teams in the league playing about two to three seasons each year.

Gutierrez said the games give the Hispanic community something to do. However, the events are not exclusive to the Hispanic community. He said everyone can come out and watch, to learn and to play. Anyone interested can contact Jose Gutierrez at El Mariachi restaurant off of Memorial Boulevard.