I just returned from a four-day trip to Honduras. My wife and I wanted to get away and immerse ourselves in a completely different culture as well as to see Mayan ruins and, most importantly of all, to relax.
The timing of my trip was to recharge my batteries before the busy preseason and Premier League season began. I also needed a break — a break away from soccer, which I consume on a daily basis, 365 days a year. So while I purposefully tried to distance myself from soccer for a few days, it was very difficult. First, there was free Wifi at the airport, hotels and restaurants, so I often found myself sharing the latest transfer stories on Twitter and Facebook. Second, most bars and restaurants I went to were showing the Copa America games as well as the under-17 World Cup. And third, and most importantly of all, Honduras is a country that loves soccer, so it wasn’t difficult to see people playing the game throughout the country.
The first soccer pitch I saw was on day two of my trip when the bus I was sitting in drove through a small village called Santa Barbara where, on a tiny bumpy pitch, were two wooden goals. Thin long branches joined together to create makeshift posts. But I had a feeling that the wooden goalposts had been there for a long time. And will continue to do so for many more years to come.
After seeing that first set of wooden goalposts, I would go on to see many more. Even the most remote villages, deep in the heart of the Honduras jungle — accessible by only a small dirt road, would have kids playing soccer on bumpy clay fields.
On Sunday afternoon, I rode a horse up to a remote village named La Pintada where we were greeted by Mayan children who offered us dolls made out of corn husks. While my wife talked to the young children, I walked around to the back of a building to see a group of 6-7 boys playing soccer (see photo above). The field was covered with stones. There was very little grass. The ball was flat. But the children were having fun. It was a beautiful site to see. The simple brilliance of children enjoying the game, which is the heart of the game. We too were once children, playing the beautiful game.
The pitch seemed a million miles away from the Premier League. But there were still some reminders. While in San Pedro Sula, an economic hub in Honduras, I saw a few strangers wearing Manchester United shirts. But throughout my trip, the majority of shirts I saw were either Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan or AC Milan. Barcelona, without a doubt, was most prevalent — almost as prevalent as the Honduras national jerseys I saw now and again. All together, seeing people in Honduras wearing their football shirts was a reminder of the impact of globalization and how, thanks to television and the easy accessibility of games on television, you can be a supporter of a club thousands of miles away from where your team plays its football.