“Hey, El Mudo!” shouted the crowd of boys running after Eduardo. There was quite a stir in the streets of San Pedro when Eduardo came home to relax and get away from the demands of being a soccer star in Mexico. But the kids saw him, and a crowd started following him, shouting.
He was between soccer seasons and had come to visit his mentor, Stephen Tolman. He might put in a bit of practice to stay in shape, but mainly he was just home. The boys were not yelling for his autograph, as you might think, or for him to kick a soccer ball around with them. That would be the normal reaction when seeing a soccer star like Eduardo. But no, these kids were yelling, “Hey, El Mudo, pray for us, pray for us!”
They know he is a Christian and want his prayers for God’s provision and blessing. They say, “Pray for me,” because all their hopes and dreams are encapsulated in soccer. El Mudo is happy to stop and pray for the children. He remembers when life was hard for him and understands their hopes and dreams. He also understands what they fail to realize yet – how Saved by Soccer can help them have a relationship with Jesus while gaining soccer skills.
Hope for a Young Boy
Eduardo began attending Saved by Soccer with his older brother to escape his family situation when he was five. His father was in and out of rehab, battling drug addiction. Eduardo was a good player and came to love Jesus. After he was baptized, he started playing competitively.
Eduardo always ended up playing above his age level because of his skills. When he was 12, he played in the under-15 league and continued to advance and improve to become a better player. When he was 17, he was recruited and debuted with Santos, a first-division team. Thankfully, his playing did not interfere with his church attendance. During his first interview as a division one player, Eduardo said, “I thank God for how He has blessed my life and has given me these opportunities.”
Gifted to Play
When Eduardo went to the under-21 team, he played in his first international tournament in France, a yearly competition held for the 16 best under-21 teams worldwide. He was the scoring champion for his team in his first year.
When Mexico’s team competed in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, they won the bronze medal. Eduardo contributed two goals toward their wins. In 2023, he will have the honor of playing in the World Cup.
Even though he is extremely wealthy, Eduardo continues to live in San Pedro. He could live in a more glamorous city but chooses to live at home and even plays pick-up soccer with the people in his hometown nightly.
Only God and Their Skills
Understanding the disadvantages of the Saved by Soccer competitive teams is essential to the story. They ride in a 1985 beat-up bus that looks like it should be transporting prisoners to rehab instead of a competitive soccer team to games. The smoke billowing out warns the other teams, “Here comes El Calor,” a warning best heeded from a team that travels and wins.
Among their other challenges is the lack of a team doctor or nurse traveling with them. They also do not have new uniforms yearly and barely have soccer cleats unless a generous US donor provides them. They don’t have a priest to pray for them or a chapel at the stadium where they can pray before they play. What do they have? Coaches who love the Lord, training them with care and prayer, and honing their God-given skills. They have the Lord guiding and directing them. In short, they have enough to win! And win they do, frequently.
Spreading the Blessings
Not only is Eduardo changed because of the ministry of Saved by Soccer, but his parents are, too. Both are saved. His father is now drug-free and operates a small restaurant. This ex-addict is often called to the local hospital when a drug overdose case is admitted. He has established a program similar to AA and encourages those struggling with addiction to join. He told the hospital staff, “I know what it is to struggle, so I want to help.” And by God’s grace, he has helped many.
The Impact of Consistent Giving
Saved by Soccer is impacting both the players and their families. Donors who give consistently to support a ministry month after month and year after year help make the impact of this ministry and others like it possible. Consistent giving allows ministries to pour into the lives of children and their families for years. Please consider financially supporting missionaries who work to help people know the Lord Jesus and experience His love. This spiritual transformation will break through culture, traditions, and habits to see lives changed for the better and for the Lord’s glory.