A Homestead youth soccer league battles through anthills, clumps of uneven ground and without field lights while other sports leagues get more city support.
The Southern Homestead Soccer Academy, launched in 2013, fields 10 groups ranked by age on a bare patch of grass wedged next to a softball field at Homestead’s Sports Complex on Southwest 169th Avenue.
Several teams have won regional championships and one has advanced to play in Spain next summer.
“This field is the alternative the city provides us because there are no available soccer fields,” said head coach Luis Hernandez. “So, we use the open green field to play soccer.”
The city has offered a temporary solution by allowing the league to practice on lighted fields at Harris Field Park.
But the sports complex field remains inadequate.
Elmer Molina, who coaches 10-year-olds, said the field does not compare to others in South Florida. Fire ants in hills scattered throughout the field leave children with multiple stings on their legs after training, he said.
“We have been to so many fields all around Florida, small towns, big towns and they have beautiful soccer complexes,” he said.
At an at-home game against Doral, the away team coach mocked the field’s poor conditions.
“We are going to get dirty,” he told his team.
“It is embarrassing,” Molina said. “We represent Homestead, and we do have a lot of championships in our age groups.”
He said soccer lacks support from the city compared to other sports like football and baseball.
With darkness coming earlier, the league faced another problem: no lights. Their practice sessions continue after dark, so the league desperately needed another field.
Councilwoman Erica Avila said the city manager and the Parks and Recreation Department arranged for the league to practice at Harris Field Park, a public recreation center with football and softball fields located on Eighth Street.
The field is home to the Dick Conley Memorial Football League and the New Homestead Little League.
The football field at Harris Field Park has artificial turf marked only for football games that they cannot remove easily, said Camila Varcarcel, Homestead spokeswoman. Home games remain at Homestead Sports Complex.
“Unfortunately, we have to be like nomads, looking for different areas,” said Carlos Caicedo, whose two sons participate in the teams.
His 11-year-old son Carlos Alberto Caicedo does not like switching fields so often.
“Sometimes we do not know which field to practice in, and we get confused,” he said. “We want only one place that has a good field.”
Avila said the city government will help with the limited resources it has, and may design a new sports complex with additional soccer fields.
Molina wants a field that represents Homestead and makes the players feel at home.
“I always tell the kids, this is our family,” he said. “Let’s give it our all.”