The front page headline in the January 15, 2014, Los Angeles Times caught my attention: “Futsal: Soccer Small and Fleet.” The article described the exploding popularity of the sport of futsal, a mini-soccer game with five-person teams played on small concrete or turf (sometimes artificial) courts.
Futsal leagues are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among Latinos. As a participation sport, futsal enjoys several advantages over traditional soccer. Futsal courts can be built for one-tenth of the cost of soccer fields, games are shorter, play is faster and more people can take part.
The article also pointed out that futsal is now being played on such places as remodeled tennis courts. That image struck me. A Latino-dominated sport is taking over spaces previously reserved for players of a sport sometimes portrayed as a primarily white elitist enclave.
Some Americans might view this modification of tennis courts into futsal courts as a loss, another small step in the disappearance of the “good old days.” Others, myself included, view this as another step in the ethnic enrichment of the United States, the adding of a new dimension to an already richly diverse nation.
But it’s not just a matter of how you look at it. It’s also a matter of the substantive role that Latinos play and will continue to play in the future of our nation.
In my last blog I suggested that, in contributing to our country, Latinos should sometimes draw upon the special features of our heritage and culture. I used as an example that we could draw upon our experience as a racially and ethnically mixed people to help lead our nation into a future of expanding intermarriage and personal multiple identities. In a small, symbolic way, the rise of futsal might be another such example.
With a population of 55 million and growing, Latinos – or Hispanics, if you prefer – will inevitably become more visible. With growing visibility comes increasing scrutiny and responsibility. Scrutiny results from both our rapid growth and our heritage of ethnic uniqueness, being somewhat distinct from what has been traditionally characterized as the white, Anglo mainstream. Responsibility comes from the need to demonstrate, in both action and words, that we can contribute to the United States in both traditionally American and uniquely Latino ways.
Futsal courts are merely a blip on the vast American landscape, but they symbolize a changing nation. It’s up to us, as Latinos, to try to bring changes that other Americans will come to respect, admire, and maybe even embrace.
Dr. Carlos E. Cortés is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Riverside. He can be reached at email@example.com.