There are little leagues and football clubs, but no soccer in National City. This mother kickstarts one

Seven-year-old Romeo Gomez has quickly moved from being timid to forging fun relationships with other kids his age by playing soccer.

“It’s tied with baseball as his favorite. He can’t choose one over the other, ”National City resident Miguel Jacinto said of his grandson.

Soccer has been a large part of Gomez’s young life as he took an interest in the sport at age three, but it was briefly taken away from him because of schedule conflicts and a lack of accessibility, Jacinto said.

“I took him to soccer practice and the league closest to us was in Chula Vista, but then (the league) changed the training times,” Jacinto said. “We could only make it to the last 30 minutes. And they were meeting farther in Otay Ranch. We were always rushing and I didn’t want to get in a car accident. Unfortunately, I had to take him out. ”

Their new challenge: how to keep playing soccer close to home?

Like Jacinto, National City resident Marisol Rodriguez found herself struggling to maintain a weekly routine of taking her 13-year-old son to a Spring Valley-based league while caring for her three other children.

Miguel Jacinto, of National City, was driving his grandson to Otay Mesa to play soccer.

(Ana Ramirez / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The South County city of about 61,000 residents has several youth sports leagues in baseball and football, but none in soccer. Over the past decade, a few soccer clubs for teens have formed but they were short-lived. A municipality typically permits leagues, depending on the venue, and costs money to run them.

As a 15-year resident of National City, Rodriguez said she can’t recall seeing any soccer leagues for kids. So, she decided to start a local club.

“I’m always asking, ‘Why is there no soccer here?’ We need it locally for our kids, especially after the pandemic, ”said Rodriguez.

Launched in late March, the mother of four set up equipment for training at a multi-use field at El Toyon Park. She started with six kids. Today, the club has three coaches and about 40 children between the ages of four and 14, and with varying skill levels.

“I had six kids and was like, ‘This is something.’ Then, as people would go running or they saw a banner that I post, slowly more started showing up and then word of mouth spread and the kids started coming, ”said Rodriguez.

That’s how Jacinto found the new soccer club, which is going by the name of the National City Soccer Club.

Phoebe Rees, 8, during in soccer practice in National City.

Phoebe Rees, 8, during in soccer practice in National City.

(Ana Ramirez / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I told (Romeo), ‘Let’s just go to the park and see what we find.’ Then we found Marisol and he joined the academy and he’s been really liking it, ”said Jacinto.

On a recent Thursday, Gomez was training with about a half-dozen other boys his age, practicing various drills with soccer balls and cones.

Just ahead was an all-girls group, where eight-year-old Phoebe Rees was practicing fast footwork with a ball. Roxana Ramirez, her mother and a teacher at a Barrio Logan school, watched nearby.

“(Rees) was in another academy in Barrio Logan but they just stopped. For me, it was coming from Logan to National City and then back to Logan for practice because there was nothing here, ”said Ramirez.

While the soccer club is not at a stage to join tournaments, the goal is to train children who would like to compete, said Rodriguez. For now, the academy is in its beginning stages and focusing on introducing more local youth to the sport, she added.

The club meets every Tuesday and Thursday at 4:30 pm at El Toyon Park.

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