At 9 pm on a summer day in Germany, Mario, from Mexico, waited to be seen by emergency doctors for an injury to the chest. His friend Arturo from Colombia had driven him to a nearby hospital — in northwest Germany, this past July. The husband of an elderly German couple waiting in line in front of them could hardly contain his impatience with a young immigrant family whose infant needed treatment. It took that family a long time to get registered. Finally, the couple was seen. Then it was Mario’s turn. He, too, took a long time to get registered. Two hours later, after several x-rays and an ultrasound, Mario and Arturo left the hospital, relieved, no ribs broken, lungs and spleen intact.

While Mario was being examined, Arturo had befriended the impatient husband. When the man discovered that it was soccer that had brought the two foreigners to his beloved hometown of Mönchengladbach, he shared decades of memories of himself and his son, with pictures and anecdotes, as he and his son are part of the legendary history of theBundesliga team Borussia Mönchengladbach. The language of soccer has done its magic and connected people from different parts of the world. As they were leaving, the man wished Arturo and Mario the best in life and soccer.

Life and Soccer — one is emblematic of the other, on many levels, especially here in this minority majority state of New Mexico where Mario and Arturo live. New Mexico does not have a professional team, but at least there is a team worth cheering for, built both with homegrown players and players from different parts of this country and the world. Not only does soccer bring the world to New Mexico, the Lobos continue to send its athlete graduates into the world as emissaries of country and school. Exemplary discipline, outstanding modesty, accomplishments both in body and mind, pave their way of life.

Not only do these student athletes make their mark on the field. The local community is their home turf too where they work with children and youth to assist and support their growth in the sport and in life at large. Over many years the UNM soccer school has built relationships with local communities and opened its doors with soccer camps in the summer and training sessions in the winter. Coaches from local clubs get routinely invited to witness the thought, the energy, the science, the psychology that goes into the growth of a student player to become successful in life and society.

Student athletes have been among UNM’s best. The discipline of athleticism does not just enlighten the body. Mind and soul grow with dedication, ambition, and vision, solid foundations for a sound human being who enriches the world with a deep sense of responsibility. Education is everything, since it pertains to everything in life and society.

This has been the mission of Coach Jeremy Fishbein. What has been built over more than a generation, 35 years of sweat, blood and spirit of so countless many, first of all, by the late Craig Robertson, Professor of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering, who came over from Scotland and gave his life and vision to this school and built what has become one of the most enviable programs in the country, must not be destroyed with the callous stroke of an oblivious pen.

Soccer is the passion of the people, especially in poverty-stricken New Mexico, where children go to school to have breakfast first. Anyone, regardless of body or wallet size, can play the sport. Here no one is privileged. All are equal. The whole world understands this and embraces it as we witnessed this summer in Russia and will have the privilege to witness again in the US, Canada and Mexico in 2026. To prepare for this festival of nations, cultures and peoples as individuals and communities, one cannot destroy, but must build its infrastructure. It’s a mission owed to the people who trust the wisdom of reason and sensibility.

Joachim Oberst