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Small-town futbol goes big time

Liga Mexicana competition picks up as season draws to a close.

Don't bother asking Angel Oriz to strap on a pair of soccer cleats these days. His playing days are over -- at least for the time being. Oriz, 37, is far too busy coordinatÿing the Liga Mexicana to particiÿpate in games.

"It's very demanding," Oriz said. "During the season, it's like a full-time job."

Oriz, the league president, and his 5-man board of directors hanÿdle numerous phone calls, disciÿplinary hearings and scheduling conflicts on a weekly basis. With approximately 400 players on 19 teams, managing the Liga Mexicaÿna is definitely a group effort. Games run from April through September, and for many, it's the best show in town.

Comprised of teams from Hood River, The Dalles, White Salmon, Parkdale, Odell -- some from as far away as Vancouver, Wash. and Pasco, Wash. -- the league is flourishing. A regular-season game on a Sunday afternoon might draw up to 200 spectators. A playoff game such as this Sunÿday's championship match in Odell for the Titulo de Copa, a midseason tournament, could atÿtract as many as 600 fans.

"These events are big money-makers for our league," Oriz said. "We charge $1 per person, which helps us pay for referees, field maintenance and league costs."

Oriz said most of the spectators are family and friends of the Mexÿican players, who make up apÿproximately 80% of the league rosters. Representatives from Honduras, Greece and the United States also participate on a reguÿlar basis.

"Most of the American guys don't speak a word of Spanish," Oriz said. "But as long as they can play, they are welcome."

Five games remain in the 2001 regular season followed by playoffs in late August and Sepÿtember. For more information on the Liga Mexicana, pick up a copy of Cascade Weekly.

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