The Guadalajara Soccer Club was crowned champion on May 8. Not the Chivas of Guadalajara, Jalisco, in Mexico, but the Chivas of Denver.
This modest Hispanic soccer club recently won the State Cup Championship in the sub-18 division, and their sub-14 division team won the President's Cup, two very prestigious trophies and the highest achievement in Colorado Youth Soccer.
Chivas of Denver has 350 to 400 players in several teams from sub-5 to the sub-18 divisions. The club was founded in 1999 by director David Campos, who together with sports director Matías Sánchez, has led Chivas to a stellar track record and a number of eye opening accomplishments.
The results have come from the kids who not only have tremendous abilities and talent, but great passion and hunger for winning. "We don´t have quantity, we have quality," adds Sánchez.
Chivas players pay less than $200 per season, compared with the $1,500 to $2,000 price tag that other teams put on the season for their members. This is due to Chivas being an "inner city club," according to Sánchez.
"Many of these kids can´t even afford to pay what we charge because their parents don´t earn enough. Some don´t even have a father or don´t have the attention and support they need."
For many of the players, Campos and Sánchez have become like fathers.
Assael Ramírez, one of the sub-18 team´s star players, says that Campos and Sánchez are their inspiration.
"They constantly tell us that we have to get good grades; they guide us and give us advice to better ourselves and to make a better future for ourselves."
Campos and Sánchez are soccer coaches at Lincoln High in Denver, where they work with many of the same players they coach at Chivas.
They provide the kids with support and guidance in school and, as members of Chivas, with transportation and even with jobs to help them meet the costs of competing.
"David puts a lot of money into covering their needs," says Sánchez.
In return, these players have turned out to be champions not just on the soccer field, their coaches claim. They are mature young men who have developed great discipline, responsibility and self-respect.
According to the coaches and parents, the concepts learned from Campos and Sánchez have allowed these Chivas players to deal with what Sánchez calls "an ugly reality we face in every game."
Discrimination and racism are the hardest obstacles the Chivas kids face during their games, according to Rafael Ramírez, Assael's father.
"The officiating is shameful," he says.
"[We face] a lot of discrimination from other teams and from the officials during games," Sanchéz agrees.
As for Assael, he says that sometimes it seems the Chivas are playing against the 11 opposing players and the three officials.
Yet, according to Sanchéz, the difficulties exist at the club and individual level and not from Colorado Youth Soccer, because "the organization only cares about the level of talent and competition."
Campos and Sánchez are former Guadalajara players, teammates at "Chivas Rayadas," where they shared the same field and facilities as the present coach of the Mexican national team, José Manuel "Chepo" De La Torre.
Sánchez says that at Chivas Denver they try to instill five fundamentals aspects in soccer, the same things they learned as players.
"As coach I base their training on the physical, tactical, technical, strategic and psychological aspects."
This has served the kids as the building blocks for their success on the field, in school and as responsible young men, Sánchez says.
The majority of these Chivas players are moving on to different universities and colleges, many with scholarships not just for soccer but also for academics.
They are going against many odds, but they are proving to themselves and everyone else that they are standing tall. They are standing as champions, Sánchez says.