by ERIN CLARK and ELIZABETH ENDERLE
WESTFIELD, Ind. (Sept. 18, 2018) - Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” blared through the speakers while students in jerseys of varying countries and colors swarmed the field to participate in the halftime spectator-led game. Nearby, the smell of arepas and homemade salsa wafted from the food trucks as students lined up to order. Spirits were high, despite the Brownsburg lead of two points, as students celebrated the school kickoff to Hispanic Heritage month.
Though the main festivities for Hispanic Heritage month took place during halftime, an event even more personal to the seniors of the team began at the start of the game: Senior Night.
“My mom hasn’t been able to come to a lot of the games this year,” player Kyle Biggerstaff (12) said. “Having her walk out here with me and getting her picture taken meant a lot to me.”
Even the students in the audience were touched by the combination of the two events.
“It was really sweet that they were able to add in these two different celebrations but then make them one night and make them so fun and emotional,” spectator Catherine Parisi (12) said.
The inclusion of the Hispanic Heritage month theme also made the night more enjoyable for the players.
“Getting to experience that with my family and a bunch of my teammates that I’ve played with for a lot of years was really fun,” Biggerstaff said. “We have some Hispanic people on our team, and getting to know their perspective on it was really fun. Honestly, the food truck that came was the coolest part.”
Players may not have been able to eat from the food truck or caterer, but the members of the audience who did were pleased with the results.
“I got nachos, but she put basil and her homemade salsa and chips on it,” Parisi said. “It was so good.”
However, Limonez Catering and El Venezolano Food Truck were not the only special additions to the night.
“It was cool seeing the seeing the food truck and seeing the students wearing jerseys and listening to music,” player Miguel Ayala-Luna (11) said. “The seniors were happy to see such a huge turnout. It did a good job connecting people to the culture.”
While Ayala-Luna appreciated the theme, his favorite part of the night was something more important to the game itself.
“It was probably my free kick because it helped us tie the game when nobody thought we were going to win,” Ayala-Luna said. “We were able to come back and tie, so that made me really happy. The tie made the seniors happy too.”
Player Connor McLaren (12) shared that sentiment, noting his favorite moment as the last goal of the game, which tied 3-3 with Brownsburg.
“I told David Green  and Ellis Douthit  to hold the players that were guarding Nick [Rogers 12] because I knew they weren’t going to call a foul in the last 15 seconds, and then the ball was crossed in,” McLaren said. “Nick flicked it over his head, and then the plan that I drew up actually worked, which was really cool.”
This game may have held a significance to individual teams and players, but spectator Julia Lamb (9) believed that soccer itself had a greater importance.
“Soccer all around the world brings people together,” Lamb said. “If you and your dad aren’t very close but you like soccer, you both sit down on the couch and watch a soccer game.”
Girls’ Varsity player Bridget Arnold (12) agreed, but approached the idea from a broader perspective.“You can play soccer in the nicest fields that exist, you can play them in the streets of Río de Janeiro, you can play in the slums,” Arnold said. “You can play soccer anywhere. It’s this uniting factor both with the culture as well as with the sport where you don’t need to speak any language, you can just play. It’s a universal thing.”
Like Arnold, McLaren saw soccer as a way to unify the different peoples of the world.
“Excluding America, in every single country in the world, soccer is their biggest sport, or second biggest sport,” McLaren said. “In Brazil, there are some kids who can’t even speak English that come here, and they’re better than almost everyone here just because you don’t have to speak to each other to understand the game. It connects people with a love.”