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Soccer in New Mexico

By Rick Hendricks

Soccer probably got its start in New Mexico at Camp Cody, near Deming. In mid-July 1917, the War Department designated National Guard troops from the Midwest to form the United States Army's 34th Infantry Division and selected Camp Cody for training the division. In January 1918 the Deming Headlight ran a  column asking "Want to Play Soccer?" and announcing that the 34th Division's 109 Sanitary Train was forming a team. Handling the coaching duties were John Brodie of the 134 Field Hospital and Jock Finn 136 Field Hospital. Brodie and Finn were of Scottish ancestry.[1] On the team were several soldiers who had been "top notch" players in England and Scotland. A game against an Army team from Ft. Bliss was in the offing. When it was Camp Cody's turn to host a match, 20,000 soldier-spectators could watch in an unused fifteen-acre reservoir that Army engineers converted into an amphitheater. The Deming High School Tattler also reported that seventh graders were playing soccer during recess in 1919.[2]

Soccer was played and watched in several places in New Mexico during World War II. German prisoner of war Walter Schmid recalled soccer contests between the two area camps in Las Cruces during his internment there in between July 1944 and March 1946.[3] Jared "Jed" Howard remembered driving with his family to the POW camp near Carlsbad on Sunday afternoons to watch soccer matches. In October 1944, German Uncooperative Non-Commissioned Prisoners of War, eventually numbering in the thousands, were sent to a POW camp in Lordsburg.[4] One of the recreational activities available to the prisoners was soccer.

Today soccer is played by tens of thousands of boys and girls, men and women in New Mexico every year, and in 2005 the University of New Mexico soccer team made in all the way to the finals of the NCAA tournament. Today dozens of New Mexicans play in colleges around the country. Several young men and women have joined the professional ranks. Las Cruces native Edgar Castillo suits up for Atlas in Guadalajara, a team that plays at the highest professional level in Mexico, which means soccer in New Mexico has traveled a long way from Deming.



[1] Deming Headlight, 4 January 1918.

[2] Deming Headlight, 12 December 1919.

[3] Walter Schmid, A German POW in New Mexico. Translated by Woflgang T. Schlaugh. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005), xiii, 139, 153.

[4] Millie Pressler, "Lordsburg Internment POW Camp," http://newmexicohistory.org/places/lordsburg-internment-pow-camp (accessed 12 February 2015).