Aside from the Olympics, the men’s soccer World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet, the drama and excitement followed by people all over the globe. That includes the little corner of the world called Corrales, where youth soccer is big and a local brewery exercises its mission to “do good” by way of a beer that pays homage to the sport.
This year’s World Cup was especially intriguing for Corraleños – and all Americans – rooting for the Stars and Stripes.
While the U.S. Women’s National Team has reached the pinnacle, winning four World Cups including the last two, the U.S. men are trying to find their feet.
After failing to qualify for the tournament in 2018, the U.S. men brought a fresh, young team to Qatar, eager to make their mark on the world stage.
The American men did make it through group play, but their youth proved to be their failing in a loss to the Netherlands in the knockout stage.
The nation most elegant at playing “The Beautiful Game” will be determined next weekend (Dec. 17-18).
Corrales is most associated with its horse culture, but it has quietly built a reputation as a soccer town, too.
Around 750 boys and girls participate in the youth soccer program in Corrales, a village of fewer than 9,000 people.
The Corrales Soccer Club focuses on teaching the fundamentals when kids are just starting out, some as young as 3. When they’re ready, the kids are placed on teams that compete against others within their age group up to age 18.
Some teams compete in the Northwest Rio Grande and Duke City soccer leagues and the better teams travel to regional tournaments. A few of its aged-out U18 players have gone on to play for a regional ODP (Olympic Development Program).
Evan Gaudette is a product of Corrales youth soccer and reflects some of the enthusiasm the Village has for the sport and its preeminent event.
“I really enjoy watching the World Cup,” says Gaudette, who coaches two of the club’s girls teams. “I try to watch every game to get ideas from every team on the strategies they use.”
Gaudette is a student of the game. Just 21, he’s already been coaching Corrales girls teams for six years.
“I fell in love with coaching and wanted to give back,” says Gaudette, who started playing soccer when he was 6 and now serves as the club’s secretary. “One thing that sets [the Corrales Soccer Club] apart is our coaches’ passion for the game. We don’t get paid. We’re a nonprofit. The reason we’re out there is because we love the game and want to pass it on.”
Gaudette went on to expound the virtues of the game – how it builds self esteem in young people, teaches sportsmanship and foundational life skills, like teamwork, discipline and patience.
He says another thing the World Cup brings is an increase in registrations.
More information on the Corrales Soccer Club can be found at www.corralessoccer.com.
Like soccer fans around the world, Gaudette has followed the storylines and has his own favorites.
He was, of course, rooting for the Americans, and noted that some of the Corrales Soccer Club’s curriculum is borrowed from the U.S. national teams.
“So our coaches are teaching some of the same concepts,” he says.
But, given his last name, Gaudette was also pulling for the French to repeat as World Cup champs.
And like a lot of sentimental citizens of the planet, he was teeming for Argentina.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi, one of the greatest to ever play the game, was playing in what could be his last World Cup, a prize lacking from a distinguished career.
Gaudette grew up idolizing Messi, watching him play all those years with Barcelona in Spanish football’s La Liga.
“He’s one of the smaller players, and I learned a lot of my game from watching what he did,” says Gaudette.
Another reason to love the game is you don’t have to be over six feet and weigh more than 200 pounds to excel at the sport the rest of the world calls football. Owing to its worldwide popularity, anybody can play. All you need is a ball and a couple of goals.
One might guess that Ex Novo Brewing Co. in Corrales was a “soccer bar” by the number of New Mexico United bumper stickers on cars in the parking lot. And indeed, a lot of the staff are fanatic about the Albuquerque-based professional soccer team that has grown so popular.
Inside the taproom, a small crowd showed up on a Tuesday afternoon to cheer on the U.S. against Iran, shown on the lone 44-inch TV above the bar.
“We do get people that come to watch the games,” says Stevo Jeter, the taproom manager.
The brewery has an association with soccer. They brewed a golden ale called “Stay GOALden,” the label featuring the New Mexico United logo. United’s slogan is “Somos Unidos” or “We are United.”
Joel Gregory, the brewery’s founder, is a Corrales native. His slogan for the brewery, which also has two locations in Oregon, is “Drink Beer, Do Good.”
With that in mind, Ex Novo entered into a partnership with New Mexico United to brew the beer. A portion of Stay GOALden sales benefit United’s Somos Unidos Foundation, which according to its website is “dedicated to creating positive outcomes for New Mexicans through art, sport, community, and unity.”
Despite a few political controversies, the World Cup was still about bringing the world together. Its slogan is “Now is All.”