his weekend was the finals for my youth soccer league. It was a long time in the works and well worth it. Of course there were a couple setbacks, my directors could not come, one of the NGOs pulled out, the mayor’s office could not lend me the audio system, but who is complaining? I learned long ago that nothing in Nicaragua goes as planned and you just have to roll with the punches. Yes, I would have loved to have had a big audio system to announce the play by play action of the game and have music, but what are you going to do? None of the kids seemed to mind and their main concern were the trophies that I had hidden in my backpack. 
Like any finals the games were the best of the best. First the youngest age group played, ages 11-13. It was a close game between two of the local barrios and in the end La Colonia pulled ahead with a header in the last 10 minutes of the game. It was so cute to see how excited the kids got. The players all ran around the field doing an choreographed dance to celebrate. 

Next my team took the field against one of my community schools, Jicaro. It was tough not to play favorites since I knew all the kids on both teams, but I have my bias for the team I worked with all year. I have never seen them play so well. I know I have already said this when they fought their way back from elimination, but they never cease to amaze me. The end score was 4-1 and my host-cousin Johel had 3 goals. Each goal was worthy of the highlight reel on ESPN, there was a beautifully crossed ball that was headed into the lower corner by Johel, another shot at the 18 that caught the keep off guard, a penalty, and a nice rebound shot. The players were in such high spirits and there was even a fair turnout by the parents. 

After the game one of the local comedores invited all of us for a light snack to celebrate our victory. Like I mentioned in my last group email I paid a local parent to prepare a meal for my team as well and later they all came up to my house to celebrate. I live a good 15 minutes out of town and I tried to convince them to have the party in the local park, but they were having none of it. One of our players recently had foot surgery and was on crutches and I even played to pity card, but my players are resilient and they carried him taking turns up the hill on their backs. It was so amazing to see how motivated they all were and the reason they wanted it at my house was so they could present me with the trophy. As the technical director they said all their work was for me and that I deserved the trophy. I was so moved by it and when I said I wanted to put it somewhere where we could all share it, they said no, it was my memory of Nicaragua. 

I am so proud of my team and all the work they put into making the first youth soccer league a success. They have grown so much in the last 9 months and I know that they all have a bright future. If I had to recall one event of my Peace Corps experience it would be this day and watching how proud all my boys were. I am confident that I have made a difference in their lives and they have definitely changed mine.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.