The San Quentin Soccer team beat its longtime rivals, the Outsiders, 3-2 at the end of October. That hot Saturday afternoon on the Lower Yard on the Field of Dreams was full of soccer players and fans watching the excitement.
The Outsiders are led by Coach Dario Abramskiehn, who has made his way into the prison since 2017. “Just to have this experience to play with you guys is gratifying.” He has loved the game of soccer since the age of three.
Abramskiehn shared possibilities for soccer to desensitize the myth of prison. “You guys are normal people just like people on the outside and it’s a gift to me to come play soccer with you guys.”
The Outsiders brought in some advantageous players with a prolific soccer skillset that should have helped them win the game.
“We have to generate a strategy that builds play to keep the ball moving. One play is called a ‘through ball,’” said Toby, a member of the Outsiders. He explains the play design by writing on the dirt to illustrate how the play is executed.
The 11-on-11 competition was played with excitement and very high capacity, and on the Field of Dreams. With a lot of rapidly moving parts, the players kicked up mushrooms of dust clouds. With the 4-4- 2 defense, the Outsiders tried to stop the SQ team members from executing their play. A penalty led to a made corner kick by SQ striker Demetrias Mitchell in the first half.
“I appreciate their time, (the Outsiders), being able to network with the soccer community causes us to play on another level; it enhances our skillset,” said Mitchell. “I’m glad that the Outside teams are coming in.”
As a result of the COVID pandemic, it had been a whole season since this many outside soccer players came into the prison, with only seven outside players at the time. This particular outside team in challenge was comprised of several different players to make up the 11-man squad, outside and inside players.
The SQ soccer program is unique and very special, especially to 50-year-old SQ resident Louis Lopez.
“I never seen programs like it in here at SQ,” said Lopez. He stands in his active wear with a giant smile on his face that could bring extra light to the day. He has been incarcerated for 30 years and at SQ for three. He said out of all prisons he had been to, there were none like SQ.
An advent soccer fan, Lopez watched from the sideline excited as Outsider Toby did a backwards trick kick that shook an SQ player.
“I appreciate these guys coming out to play with us. They treat us like human beings and they motivate us,” Lopez said.
At the half, with the team’s strikers making many attempts at the goal, the score was tied at one goal apiece. Outsiders Coach Abramskiehn watched from the sidelines as two opposing players did a dance in the middle of the field with the ball, trying to thwart off the other from pressing down the field. Shouts in Spanish blurted out when battles were incited.
“The offense of soccer is just like that of the Warriors,” said Abramskiehn giving his analogy.
Towards the end of the second 35-minute half, the score was 2-2. A SQ goalie did a leaping save that blocked the Outsiders player from scoring. The SQ offense pushed the ball down the field and that led to the tie-breaking, and eventually, winning goal.
At the end of the game, the group formed a circle on the field and shared heartfelt words of hope and encouragement.