Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo
Warm light peaks through the branches of a nearby tree causing the shadows of five teenage boys to lengthen behind them. Their once crisp shirts grow heavier with each step — steps they hope will lead them to a championship.
“Fuerte! Rapido! Rapido! Rapido!” their coach Francisco De Paz yells as they each pick up their pace, running back and forth between two weathered cones.
Twice a week for the past four months, the alley behind De Paz’s home in Golden Gate is where the Hurancanes, or Hurricanes, have honed their futsal skills. Yesterday, they planned to prove it had all been worth it when they played in the Naples Futsal League final game at the Golden Gate Community Center.
Futsal is game of five-on-five indoor soccer and the Huracanes are the youngest in their division. In the championship they will be playing men averaging twice their age. Last season they earned their way out of the youth league into the lower division of the adult league. At the time of the press run, the Huracanes had not yet played their game, but if they won, they would qualify to play in the highest division of Naples Futsal.
Jesus Martinez is only 14. They call him “The Freshman.” Though, he sports more facial hair than anyone else on his team. He’s the backup goalie when their regular goalie doesn’t show up — which is more often than not. He’s nervous. But last week he blocked a penalty kick and his pride shows through his face when he mentions it. He likes their chances.
They all do.
“We’re not the favorite team, but we play a good game and we play hard,” said team co-captain Jose Torres, 17. “We gotta show them we can do it.”
There are no frills. No fancy goals or nets. The soccer balls they use are frayed and missing fabric. But that’s not what’s important. Practice, De Paz says, is important.
De Paz tethers a ball to his wrist with a bungee cord and kicks it away from himself, Jonnatan Cruz, 17, runs down the alley toward De Paz and kicks the ball as hard and as accurate as possible. Just as fast as it shot out, the ball springs back. Cruz heads to the back of the line and De Paz starts over with the next player.
As they catch their breath between drills, the boys chat about who has taken the Scholastic Aptitude Test or American College Test. But the conversation quickly returns to soccer. Or rather, about how “fine” one of the players is on the French Women’s World Cup team.
They have paid close attention to the Women’s World Cup and are inspired by the U.S. Women’s National team making it all the way to the final.
Talking doesn’t last long before they are on to the next drill.
As the sun fades and the sky turns the shade of a deeply dejected lover, the breeze dies and the mosquitoes come alive. But the boys continue to work. The silhouette of a rat can be seen scurrying the length of a power line above their heads. None of it phases them.
De Paz is a very serious coach, yet benevolent. He works them hard for two hours with drills to help them with agility, footwork, endurance. They are drills he learned growing up playing and coaching the game in Mexico.
The boys say they owe their quick success to him.
“He’s the one who taught us a lot,” says co-captain Torres. “Everything we know is from him — he saw the potential in us.”
For more information about Naples Futsal, call Fernando Orellana at (239) 200-5333.
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Connect with Lexey Swall at www.naplesnews.com/staff/lexey-swall/