Back to Brownsville | Chronicling a soccer team, and a sister city, skilled at border crossing

Casares, in the interview, links the provocative remarks and signs of the Coppell supporters—tournament organizers forced removal of the racist messages—to tensions in Texas and the United States over immigration reform and fears of a growing Latino presence. One wonders if, within an American soccer culture that has not fostered long-standing ties by ethnicity and origin to professional clubs, these emotions are expressed at the grassroots, such as in the youth game, where regional political grievances can find an outlet.

In our minds we associate the Porter-Coppell 5A final of 2006 with an incident outside Charlotte, North Carolina, last November. Before a soccer game between Forestview High School of Gastonia and Charlotte Catholic, Forestview students broadcast a 90-second snippet of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The Charlotte Catholic coach, who is black, also accused Forestview players of shouting racial epithets during the game, although these latter charges were not upheld.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association suspended a Forestview assistant coach and goalkeeper and placed the soccer team on a one-year probation. “This has changed lives,” Forestview coach David Shearer told the Charlotte Observer afterward (Kevin Cary, “District Suspends 2 Over Nazi Speech,” 9 Nov 06). “After tonight … I don’t think anything will be normal.”

Small-town soccer in this case again helps illuminate hidden histories. The unthinking provocation of the Goebbels broadcast contrasts sharply with Gastonia’s background as a hotbed of labor organizing—it was the site of the Loray Mill strike in 1929—and as a setting for the progressive feminist works of authors such as Grace Lumpkin and Myra Page. Gathering Storm, Page’s first novel, centered on the Communist-led strike at Loray Mill, events and memories long suppressed in this predominantly conservative region. Interviewed by Tina Baker, collaborator on In a Generous Spirit: A First-Person Biography of Myra Page (University of Illinois, 1996), Page in the late 1980s, then living in a retirement home, nevertheless felt guardedly optimistic:

For us, there’s still a leftover fear of what people will think. We felt so isolated during the McCarthy probes, and before that with the Ku Klux Klan. I hope that it will never be like that again; I don’t believe it will. I think the American people learned something. … Now we accept that we have something people want to hear. (quoted by Suzanne Sowinska, The Women’s Review of Books, 1 Mar 97)

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