PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (WLOX) - It may be a cliche’, but it truly is a field of dreams for Francisco Camero and his friends.
Since 1978, soccer players have gathered on Sunday afternoon at Camero’s house for a game, some food and friendship.
“I’ve always had a dream of having a soccer field on my property,” Camero said on Sunday.
Soccer flows in Camero’s blood. The native of Bogota, Colombia said he has played since he was four years old. He moved to Pass Christian 42 years ago and established a family medical practice. He also established Club Camero, as his home and field has come to be known.
“It’s fun, It’s social, it’s sport, but the dynamic is the strong friendship that we have developed through the years,” he said.
Camero and his friend Halil Ozerdan, a native of Turkey, would kick a ball around in Jones Park. Soon they began attracting other players. It has grown into what may be the most famous pick-up game on the Coast.
“Friendship is the first thing,” said Mohamed Elalighe, 63. The Libya native has been playing soccer with Camero since the 1980s. “Soccer, you know the game itself, that’s very important, plus the fun and being around everybody.”
“I think we laugh more than we play, it’s true, but that’s part of the fun, that’s what it is,” Camero said. “That’s what you look forward to. Sunday 3 o’clock you be here, and who cares, if it’s five against five, ten against ten, we play and we have a good time.”
Camero is 78 years old, and he said that by keeping in shape and still playing at his age sets a good example for his patients to be healthy.
“If you take good care of yourself, and you do exercise, take care of the weight, it becomes a discipline.”
St. Patrick Catholic High School soccer coach Mario Camps, 65, has also been a regular for decades. “The uniqueness of it is that we are from so many different nations and we all bring our style of playing and we end up trying to blend together,” said the Mexico native.
On this day, players on the field hailed from North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. Many of the players are in their 40′s to their 60′s, a time that most of their peers have given up sport.
Their passion for the game keeps them young. And they have learned to play conservatively.
“Clean, but highly competitive,” said Camero describing the game.
These older players have shared their skills with many up-and-coming locals.
Camps joked about some of his players arriving at the field to find a “bunch of old people,” only to later wonder how they lost to them.
One of several former William Carey College players that made their way to Club Camero was Chris Pryor, who is now the girls soccer coach Gulfport High School. He said he learned much more than just how to play better.
“It wasn’t just about playing well, it was about treating our fellow human being with respect even though you were trying to meg them or score on them,” Pryor said.
Beyond the football, is the food. Players take turns bringing food for all to share, often a recipe from their native land. And after the game, more laughs, a cervaza and the bond of friendship