- Associated Press
Sunday, November 29, 2020

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (AP) - For decades, international pickup soccer games have been played in a Mississippi doctor’s yard.

“I’ve always had a dream of having a soccer field on my property,” Francisco Camero, 78, told WLOX-TV.

He created one after moving to Pass Christian in 1978.

On a recent Sunday, players hailed from North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa.

“Friendship is the first thing,” said Mohamed Elalighe, 63, a native of Libya who 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.”

Players take turns bringing food for all to share, often a recipe from their native land.

Camero, a native of Bogota, Colombia, said the games started at a local park where he and a friend from Ethiopia would kick a ball around and attracted other fans.

Players have gathered at his house on Sunday afternoon for 42 years now.

“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.”

Many of the players are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Camero, who runs a family medical practice, said keeping in shape and playing soccer at his age set a good example for his patients.

“If you take good care of yourself, and you do exercise, take care of the weight, it becomes a discipline,” he said.

St. Patrick Catholic High School soccer coach Mario Camps, 65, joked that some of his players show up and find a “bunch of old people,” only to later wonder how they lost to them.

Camps, a native of Mexico, 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,” he said.

Camero described the games as “clean, but highly competitive.”

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