Relating to Richmond

The first time I saw the Richmond boys soccer team play, it was against De La Salle in 2005. It was raining hard that day, but the Oilers managed to pull out a hard fought 1-0 victory.

I wasn’t rooting for Richmond, but being Latino, I couldn’t help but feel proud. I somehow was connected to the Oilers. I could relate with the players because I myself looked like them. The names on their roster were similar to mine. They communicated on the field in Spanish and I understood every word. I saw my older cousins in them. I saw my family.

My grandmother immigrated to this country in the 1970’s and one at a time, brought her nine children from Honduras, Central America. One of them was my father, he was 17. My family worked hard to buy a house in Los Angeles before finally moving and settling in Lynwood, Ca, a city not unlike Richmond.

It was there were my older cousins played on the Lynwood High soccer team in the late 1980’s. Lynwood’s claim to fame is that it’s the city next to Compton. Gangs were visible, drugs easy to find. The city is made up of low income, blue collar families. Because my cousins couldn’t speak English or dressed a certain way, they were ridiculed on campus. They wouldn’t want to wear their soccer warm ups because it meant they were on the soccer team and seen as “wet backs.” They persevered.

When I was in high school I played volleyball. It’s not a sport viewed as one dominated by the Hispanic culture. We faced the same stereotypes and endured the sideway looks when we traveled to cities like Cerritos and Downey, mostly white, affluent areas back then.

The point is, when I saw how competitive the Richmond team was, I couldn’t help to think how the team had over come all those obstacles and negative views. How by winning on the field and exhibiting sportsmanship, the Oilers had silenced their critics and gain new supporters.

What people sometimes forget is that Latino immigrants come to this country with the same hopes and dreams that any immigrant from any country does: To work, to become successful, to provide for their family. That’s what I see in the Richmond Boys soccer team, young men trying to make it in spite of what may or may not stand against them. My family made it. My older cousins have gone on to live successful lives. Many of the Oilers will as well.


  • Nicole

    Many of us look to someone older in search for a role model. Rarely do we look in the eyes of children and see a model of true strength and courage. The Richmond kids are the true essence of grace under fire. What a touching story! You did a great job capturing the sprirt of the team and the community. It’s refreshing to read stories where everyone comes together for a cause…for children. I know we’ve all read stories, seen movies or even have experienced seeing/being the poor little kids who everyone pitties because they don’t have new uniforms etc. It’s rare that we hear the stories of communities taking success into their own hands. Regardless of the financial situation, a win is a win and that team is compiled of winners on every level. Thank you!

  • Ben Enos

    To echo the sentiment of the two earlier posts, I’ll never forget last year’s Richmond v. Monte Vista game, as I was there to cover it that night. It was an even match the entire night and when MV scored with only a few minutes left, you could audibly hear the life get sucked out of the Oilers’ fans. The most important thing to keep in mind is that these were two closely matched teams, not the 1st seed versus a much lower seed. By the time the first goal was scored, you could have flipped a coin as to who you thought might win.

    Once the game finished, I figured I’d need to wait for interviews as MV was celebrating and the Oilers were sort of stunned. So I stood in the stands and waited and before long, the chant that Richmond uses before their games was being repeated by their fans. The players joined in for a moment, but then turned their attention to the Monte Vista side of the field, joined together and clapped for their opponents. For kids who had just lost their biggest game of the year to do this kind of floored everyone in attendance. I remember hearing an MV parent say she had never seen that in a soccer match before.

    I will never forget the way that the Oilers represented themselves, their school, their fans, and their city that night. They represent something that is so successful in a city where most choose to dwell on failure. What we saw that night was kids celebrating with their supporters what they had done the entire year and for a youth team to do that rather than focus on a loss is not something that we see all that often.

  • Rene Siles – RHS Soccer

    I am the head boys soccer coach at Richmond High. I was deeply touched by Ricardo Sanchez’ article and also by the reactions I am reading on this blog. I stumbled upon it, looking for HS soccer scores…

    I am moved by the fact that Ricardo, Nicole and Ben, and many other people see our players for who they are, beyond the veil of race and economics.

    It is a real privilege for us, as coaches to stand alongside our players for 3 or 4 months a year, to stand with them. In spite of all the adversity, they are exactly what God had in mind for them: “Grace under fire” is an expression used in Nicole’s post that is very true.

    I will make sure that our players read this blog. I may take it to practice tomorrow.

    Thank you all very much for everything. I can’t tell you that we are going to win the NCS championship this year, but I can tell you that our kids sure feel like winners, thanks to all of you.

  • BB

    Rene Siles, his coaching staff and other staff at Richmond do a remarkable job with the kids in the soccer program at all levels. Their challenges go far beyond what most soccer coaches face at almost any level. Their dedication and the role model they provide is outstanding. They teach life lessons that go far beyond soccer skills. Thank you to Ricardo for helping to create a better understanding of a remarkable team and “soccer family.”