Back when we were kids, most of us played soccer in the Redding Parks & Recreation league. Though I was certainly no David Beckham, I have many fond memories of night games at Tiger Field, sweaty shin guards, and the smell of grass in my cleats.

I usually had the honor of playing on the same team as fellow amigos Miguelito and Pepe, and these games often exposed us to other kids from weird schools we’d never heard of.
“We’re playing North Cow Creek tonight,” the coach would say. “so I want you guys to really show them what you’ve got.”

There was always a certain awkwardness in the air before those games. Our team was never particularly great, and it didn’t help that all the others seemed to be made up of feral kids with mullets who were way better than us. I remember standing there on the field as we waited for the game to start, usually thinking about how we were going to get our butts kicked.

North Cow Creek. Where is that, anyway? These guys all have the same hair. That kid is a midget, but looks mean. He has a mouth guard. I bet they’re going to trip us when the ref isn’t looking. I hope we —

“GO, GO, GO!” The coach yelled. The game would start, thus beginning an hour-long blur of sweaty kids in brightly-colored tube socks.

On one of these teams, there was a kid who possessed an unusual command of the field. He was clearly their star player, and his teammates had apparently been instructed by their coach to support his offensive maneuvers at all times. This involved them running lateral to him and verbally confirming at regular intervals that he had their support.

This had unexpectedly humorous results for those of us on the opposing team. We’d be playing defense as the kid stormed toward our goal, while two or three of his teammates yelled:

“FOOT! FOOT! I’M WITH YA, FOOT!”

“FOOT, I’M WITH YA!”

“WITH YA, FOOT!”

The first time I heard this, I burst out laughing. It sounded so ridiculous, almost like a joke. But then they scored, and then they scored again. And again, and again. This “Foot” kid seemed unstoppable, and they ultimately beat the tar out of us. Their methods were as effective as they were silly.

Afterward, at school, the “WITH YA, FOOT” thing became a regular gag. Most of us were just mad that we’d been beaten so severely by them, and the fact that they used that stupid strategy to do so made it all the more maddening. As the days and weeks passed, we plotted our revenge against the mysteriously-named “Foot” and his team. We knew we’d play them again, and were determined not to let them penetrate our defense next time.

Several weeks passed, and the evening eventually arrived when we faced off against our brown-uniformed rivals again. This time, the star wore a jersey that said FOOTE on the back. At first I thought it was funny that they misspelled “foot”, which we assumed was just his nickname — but then realized that “Foote” was his last name. Yes, it all made sense!

I remember our coach being insistent about defending the goal from Foote.
“I don’t care how you do it, but you need to stay on that guy. If he can’t get through, nobody else on his team will be able to, either.”

We started the game, and they launched right in with their usual strategy. As soon as they got the ball, it was passed to Foote – and his attack campaign began.

“I’M WITH YA, FOOTE!”

This time, we were ready. A bunch of our guys went straight for him, and the rest of us moved in between him and his teammates. Then, we started yelling to him.

“FOOTE! WITH YA, FOOTE!”

“RIGHT HERE, FOOTE!”

“WITH YA BACK HERE, FOOTE!”

“FOOTE!”

His own teammates kept hollering too, but none of them expected this. Soon, just about everybody on the field was yelling to Foote. Confused, he desperately passed the ball — to the wrong person. Our diversion tactic had worked, and we’d managed to keep the mighty Foote away from our goal. We kept this up for the rest of the game, and it became obvious that he was the only person we needed to worry about.

I believe we won that game. Whatever the case, our team left Tiger Field a little older and a bit wiser that night. We’d defeated Foote, and learned the power of teamwork in taking down a common enemy.

* * *

Some of the other Amigos, even though we didn’t know each other at that age, have similar memories of encounters with Foote on the soccer field. Recently, Jaime and I tried to figure out exactly who he was, and came up blank. I was hoping maybe he went pro and became a huge fútbol star in Brazil or something, without us even noticing.

Wherever he is, I’d like him to know that the Amigos Locos are still “with” him… perhaps not in sport, but in spirit.

WE’RE WITH YA, FOOTE!