Book review: “This Love Is Not For Cowards”

12 06 2012

I don’t buy a lot of books. I do once in a while, or I’ll trade books with my parents.

Until a few days ago, every book I’d ever read or bought was the actual book. A hard copy or paperback. Then I located an Itunes gift card I was given, and after reading excerpts from one book in particular, I went online and purchased “This Love is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juarez” by Robert Andrew Powell.

I couldn’t put down my phone. Every chance I got, I read the words on the screen, trying to form a mental picture of the places the author mentioned and described in the book, places I know I must have seen from high viewpoints across the border from Juarez in El Paso, Texas. Safe and sound on the American side.

To have read this book — a personal account about the now-defunct Indios de Juarez Mexican professional soccer team and its players, personalities and the incredibly difficult things the Indios and their supporters had to deal with living in Juarez on a daily basis — and been in El Paso just a few weeks ago looking right at Juarez every day was almost unexplainable.

Visiting El Paso and being within a few steps of Juarez and the border made quite an impact on me, and I felt that impact again as I read this book.

I’d heard of Powell’s book before I went to West Texas, and I think there was a part of me that really wanted to walk over one of the bridges and set foot in Juarez just to say I did.

Pedestrian tunnel-like walkway between Mexico and the USA, from American side.

Probably better that I didn’t. I didn’t bring my passport, one, and everyone in El Paso that I talked about Juarez with told me to avoid it. I didn’t question their reasoning.

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Omar Salgado, before he was drafted into Major League Soccer, is a proud borderland native from El Paso who would cross the border to see every Indios match, he told me recently.

“My dad had season tickets and my best friend is the owner of S-Mart, which (was) their biggest sponsor,” Salgado said. S-Mart is mentioned in the book as both a place of business and a team kit  sponsor.

“It was a team that I really loved and it was unfortunate the way it ended,” Salgado said.

Salgado’s thoughts echoed those of others in Powell’s book. The team ceased operations at the end of last year. Reading the excerpts from Powell’s book inspired me to write this, in which I caught up with former Indios players playing now in El Paso.

Juarez looked so sleepy and sad, at least what I saw of it from a distance, across the highways and over the fortified border wall. Shanties and dirt and dust. Not much traffic on the roads. The white-painted mountainside you could see from anywhere, imploring people to read the Bible (another landmark mentioned in the book). Seeing that made me think that Juarez was a hopeless place. I kept looking for the soccer stadium where the Indios played. I’m pretty sure I saw it.

Looking down on El Paso, and in the distance across the dry riverbed, Ciudad Juarez, MX. in May 2012.

Just lots of little houses and a few buildings and green spaces spread out from the border to the south to the mountains as far as I could see. I knew bad things had happened there. I wondered if I might hear machine-gun fire or some sort of noise from “the murder capital of the world.”

I didn’t.

This book examines life in Juarez, everyday lives of a lot of good, friendly people who love what their city once was and still believe in what it can be. The book made me feel depressed, stunned, hopeful and blessed at various times. If only the Indios could have won when it mattered. If only they could have gotten what they so much deserved — a full staff of employees, a good budget, better players, better facilities, safety and other things the rest of us in safer places take for granted.

It’s definitely the best soccer book I’ve ever read. It sheds light on life along the Mexican border, two very different cultures that come together out of sheer geography.

Juarez seems to be a little better off in terms of the safety of its citizens, but those people deserve to be happy. They deserve to feel like normal human beings again, not to be numbed by daily murders.

Mr. Powell tells the Indios’ story like no one has. He’s to be congratulated for this modern masterpiece.

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3 responses

12 06 2012
Shelli Romero

I’ll have to read it! Good review!

13 06 2012
NASR TODAY – June 12, 2012 | NASR

[…] Book review: “This Love is Not for Cowards” (Jose Romero, My life of sports, y mas) […]

30 06 2012
gohorvilleur

it is such a dramatic difference between both sides of the border. Im amazed every time I cross the line.

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