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An introduction to the rich history of soccer in Northern Mexico

Jesús “Chuy” Aranzábal’s restaurant Patachueca is a place to get a good meal and learn about the history of soccer in La Comarca Lagunera.

Entrance to Patachueca. “Enjoy the history of our soccer in La Laguna.” Eugene Rupinski / FMF State of Mind

Torreón is “La Ciudad de los Grandes Esfuerzos” - the city of hard work. It started out as a ranching town, with the soils of La Comarca Lagunera rich from millennia of periodic flooding from the Nazas River that separates Torreón from Gómez Palacio. There are still rancheros on the outskirts of town, but it has since transformed itself into an industrial center with Peñoles (a mining conglomerate) and Lala (dairy products) the big industries in the city today.

Not far from the mines of Peñoles on the Boulevard Independencia in the heart of Torreón’s Los Ángeles neighborhood is an unassuming strip mall. You’d never know it simply by looking at it, but next to the MetLife is a place that is a monument to the history of soccer in La Comarca Lagunera. Patachueca is a restaurant, sure, but talk to owner Jesús “Chuy” Aranzábal for a few minutes and you’ll soon realize that you’re standing in a place where the history is presented for both consumption and reverence.

The nopales rellenos. Cactus paddle with fried tomatoes and fried cheese in a salsa.
The nopales rellenos. Cactus paddle with fried tomatoes and fried cheese in a salsa.
Eugene Rupinski / FMF State of Mind

While most people went to church on that Sunday morning, I went to school. Within sight of the Cristo de las Noas, Chuy spent two hours talking with myself and Kim Tate of Orlegi Sports about the history of soccer in Torreón and the region. Along the wall that separates Patachueca from the MetLife office are photos. From floor to ceiling and along the entirety of the wall is a visual representation of the history of soccer in the region, starting from the earliest teams in Torreón and continuing along to the present day Guerreros, with everything in between. Pick a photo and Chuy has a story about it.

Chuy takes us through the history of soccer in La Comarca Lagunera. He points to a photo that shows the winners of the Copa de Beneficencia in March of 1917, before soccer was professionalized. The rancheros largely made up the teams back in the early 20th century, working on the farms all day before going to play soccer after work.

He tells us about the old Estadio Isidro, which was a horseshoe because the one side butted up against the road. He tells us about teams from every decade over the past century, players and club presidents alike. He even points to a picture from 1946 where a little boy is posing with the team. “Soy yo,” he says. “It’s me.”

Soccer was a point of pride for the towns back then, and while the players weren’t professionals as we think of them now, Chuy tells us that the people in town would give the players jobs when needed to help make ends meet.

There are photos of Club de Fútbol Torreón, who along with Club de Fútbol Laguna both played in the forerunner of today’s Liga MX, the Primera División de México. Club de Fútbol Laguna was started in 1953 and won the 1967-68 Segunda División title, spending a decade in the Primera División. Chuy shows us the picture of the goal scored against Nacional at Estadio Jalisco that lifted the team into the Primera División.

Owner Jesús “Chuy” Aranzábal (left) and I talking about the different photos on the wall of Patachueca.
Owner Jesús “Chuy” Aranzábal (left) and I talking about the different photos on the wall of Patachueca.
Kim Tate / Orlegi Sports

Started in 1959, Torreón was perhaps the more successful of the two clubs. They won the Segunda División in the 1968-69 season, and the next year they were the runners-up in the 1969-70 Copa Presidente, which is now the Copa MX. Torreón lost to Chivas 5-3 on aggregate in that.

The early 70’s were the original heyday of soccer in La Laguna Comarca, with two teams in the Mexican top flight. It still was a far cry from what we experience today. The teams would travel by bus for road games, going as far as Veracruz on what looks like a school bus. Chuy tells me the bus ride took about 18 hours one way.

The heyday wouldn’t last forever. As quickly as their stars rose they fell, and in 1974 Torreón FC was sold, becoming Los Leones Negros de la Universidad de Guadalajara. Leones Negros are currently in the Ascenso MX after a brief stint in Liga MX during the 2014-15 season. Laguna FC eventually disappeared too, as the team was sold in 1978 and became Coyotes Neza.

Santos Laguna started in 1983, and he has pictures of the first team. We interrupt a nice couple who are eating to look at the photos. Chuy tells us that he was the first sports talk radio person in Mexico in the mid 1980’s. The radio station had a gap to fill and asked if he’d do something. He said he’d talk about sports, and to this day continues to write a column. Chuy covered the early years of the team and leads us to a picture of the 1988-89 team, pointing out a very young Miguel Herrera. “Poquito Piojo,” he says, laughing.

With that, we thank Chuy for his time and head out. I can’t help but think that I’ve only scratched the very surface of the history captured in those photographs and wonder about the history that wasn’t captured. It gives me a greater appreciation of the work that people are doing now to preserve the current history as it’s being written to hand down to future generations. I feel fortunate that I get to help with that endeavor in my own small way, and can’t wait to return to learn more and pass it along.