The American dream for some people is to connect with your family, live life in the simple manner, buy a house, keep a job, get a dog, and raise your kids. But, for San Quentin resident Francisco Sajuan, he found that dream through the sport of futbol (soccer in Spanish).
“I hope my daughter takes this great opportunity seriously,” Legorreta said. “Seeing my kids living the opportunity I had, makes me feel a portion of the American dream.”
Not only did Legorreta’s, daughter take after him by adapting his love for the sport, she is being trained by professionals.
Legorreta always wanted to be a soccer star since the age of 12; however, his dreams were cut short when he came to prison. Fortunately, the apple did not fall too far from the tree. Twenty-three years later he is able to live out his dream of being a soccer star vicariously through his daughter.
Life took an unfortunate turn for many soccer athletes like Legorreta when the pandemic hit SQ. Their American soccer dream in prison was put to a halt.
For Legorreta, when the program was paused it took away his imaginary fashion how he bonds with his daughter.
“Being that my dreams faded away from being locked up, playing soccer in prison reminds me of my daughter,” said Legorreta.
That same bonding sentiment is also common for other soccer athletes in SQ. Family is their motivation but futbol is also the way they rehabilitated themselves.
Refugio Juarez, 50, is the SQ Earthquakes’ field coach. He has been serving an eight-year sentence and says soccer is his best form of rehabilitation.
“Soccer and running are the most appropriate tools to maintain my physical condition and helping with the soccer program gives me the privilege to serve the community. I believe in serving because by serving others, I help myself,” said Juarez.
When the program was suspended, it was like being dead, said Juarez. Since programs have opened up and futbol players are able to get out on a warm day and scrimmage together on the field, futbol players are experiencing physical and mental benefits.
“During the lockdown my thoughts were about playing soccer; unfortunately, I couldn’t do it in my cell,” SQ resident Rolando Tut,36, said. “But now that I’m able to come outside, my first thought was to practice my favorite sport, futbol. Because, during the lockdown I had opposing thoughts (mental challenges). However, now playing futbol I feel liberated mentally and physically, the Soccer Team Program, which is very well organized, helps me to clear up my mind and to feel a level of freedom, even here in SQ.”
Tut plays with the SQ Earthquakes and has been at SQ since 2017. He has been attending a variety of self-help programs. However, he said that none were on his mind during the lockdown as much as futbol.
New arrival Dada Taye (28) stood balancing the soccer ball and breathing a winded sigh after warming up for a practice.
“It’s really cool to come out and do what I like to do, which is practice soccer despite being in prison. This sport helps me to feel free,” said Taye.
–By Timothy Hicks and Carlos Drouaillet contributed to this story