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Photos: A taste of Guatemala and Mexico on Sundays in Ladner

Latino Workers Soccer Tournament is back for another summer at Delta Secondary School with Sunday night matches

You can’t take 600 temporary foreign workers back to their home country each week but you can try to give them a taste of it right here in Ladner.

That’s what the Latino Workers Soccer Tournament is all about and the community is invited to be part of it every Sunday night for a doubleheader of matches starting at 4:30 p.m. at Delta Secondary School.

The organizers are Ladner residents Kim and Jon Pelen.

“My husband is from Guatemala. We thought we were going to live there and do humanitarian work, but ended up having to come back here to my hometown. That’s when we found out there were 400 Guatemalans living within a 10-minute bike ride from our house on these farms,” explained Kim. “Growing up, I guess it was something I didn’t realize with these expanding greenhouses. There’s now probably 600 workers in Delta that we know of, between Mexicans and Guatemalans, so we decided to start a ministry program to support them outside of their work.”

Of the various activities, soccer games resonated the most with the workers where the sport is immensely popular in both countries.

“It’s the way of life for Latin Americans,” Kim continued. “The pandemic was really bad mentally for these guys so as the (COVID) restrictions let up in July (2021) we started up these games and it was a breath of fresh air when they came out to play.”

The workers wanted much more than the opportunity to kick the ball around at a local field.

They are paying themselves for weekly referees and have ordered team kits, complete with name bars for each player. There are eight participating teams this season from the various nearby greenhouses: Windset, West Coast, Rubicon, Houwellings, Village and Sunnyside, along with a squad made up of local players. All hold regular training sessions, leading up to match day.

Tournament will feature eight teams in action

The countries’ national anthems are played before kickoff and the games are even being broadcasted back to their families with professional commentators.

“They all have different skills back home and these guys are actual commentators. When they came here we had the microphone and speakers so they started commentating on the games,” Kim said. “So for this year, one of the guys set up a radio station back home so that it can feed back to the families. Even though you can’t understand the Spanish commenting, it just adds to the excitement, especially when a goal is scored.”

For the tournament-opening Sunday (June 26), barbecues were brought to the field for added food options. That won’t happen every week but there will always be a “tienda” (Spanish for little store) in operation, offering cold drinks and chips. The plan is also to sell Mexican street corn when corn season arrives.

The season will conclude with the championship games on Labour Day weekend.

“As the season goes on, it'll get more exciting because there's more on the line,” Kim said. “Last year, we did a big finals at the end and we wrapped it up with a little ceremony where the top three teams got a medal and there was a big trophy for the winner. We will be doing all that again.”

Helping make the soccer tournament possible was a Neighbourhood Small Grant from the Delta Community Foundation.

“We hope this event serves the community with entertainment and the workers with a good distraction from the monotony of their work,” said Kim.