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From The Pitch – El Paso Strong: A Conversation

By USLChampionship.com Staff, 08/26/19, 8:00AM EDT

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Locomotive FC’s Omar Salgado and Memo Diaz want you to know their hometown


El Paso Locomotive FC players and fans wore #ElPasoStrong shirts at the club's August 17 contest as they commemorated the tragedy that struck their community two weeks earlier. | Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC

The recent tragedy in El Paso hit the community hard, especially those who had grown up with the city as their home. That was certainly true for El Paso Locomotive FC players Omar Salgado and Guillermo “Memo” Diaz, native sons who have seen the city grow since growing up playing in the city’s streets to becoming part of the club’s squad in its inaugural season.

 

The club hosted “El Paso Strong Night” this past Saturday, but prior to kickoff Salgado and Diaz talked about what it meant to grow up in El Paso, how the recent tragedy has affected the city, and what they hope will emerge from the community as it comes together in the coming weeks and months.



Omar Salgado

It might sound weird to think about, but the best way to describe El Paso is if it were a person. Does that make sense? How would you describe that person? I would just say that it’s someone who is very nice. Probably multi-cultural. A good friend, and someone who looks out for others. Someone you could call if you ran out of gas, or needed help changing a tire, you know? Someone welcoming.

I grew up on the outskirts of the city, farther west. The area was barely anything when I was young, so it’s been crazy for me to see it now – how much it’s grown. While the development hadn’t happened yet, I remember there were tons of fields though. Whether it was the baseball field or the soccer field – that’s where you could find me. My friends all went to different schools around the area, but we’d all get together and hang out in the afternoons. Just out in the neighborhood messing around.


Memo Diaz

Omar Salgado

I think there are misconceptions about what growing up here is like. Everyone calls us a border town, and it is, but I’m not sure that everyone knows what that means. Memo knows this, but we have new teammates join us all the time – guys who aren’t from here – and they see the border and they see Juarez and it’s really exciting for them. But if you’re from here, it’s just normal.


Omar Salgado

I spent the first 15 years of my life in the Borderplex. I have family who live on both sides. Family in Juarez. Family in El Paso. Growing up, I’d have dinner with Grandpa in El Paso one night and then head over to see family in Juarez the next morning. It’s that coming together of cultures that makes this place special. I think maybe at some point in my life I took that for granted, but now I realize that growing up here removed certain stigmas. It taught me to see everyone here the same.

Exactly. People here are tight-knit. I feel really close to everyone. Growing up, we always felt safe. It’s was always a safe city, joyful, and everyone just lived a pretty good life.


Memo Diaz

My favorite memories growing up are those ones from my neighborhood after getting home from school. I would be with my friends – who I came up with all the way from elementary. Just outside playing. Laughing. Having fun.


Memo Diaz

El Paso isn’t a small place, but it’s the kind of place where everybody knows everybody.


Memo Diaz

Omar Salgado

It’s also crazy how much people love soccer here. You know what’s cool now is that there are places you can stand near the border – on either side – where you can see the lights from the stadium where FC Juarez play and where we play. That’s cool. Two professional soccer teams within eyesight. I wish we had that when I was growing up here.

People forget this now, but before the Locomotive came, we hadn’t had soccer in a while in El Paso. The University here doesn’t have a men’s program, so when the team arrived it meant a lot. Especially since it wasn’t just some lower-division team, it was a USL Championship team. Everybody was excited. You could tell the first game of the season; the stadium was full, and fans were into the game.


Memo Diaz

I think it also means a lot because we know we have all this support in the community and we know every time we play, we’re playing for them. It brings us closer to the community, you know? It’s wild.


Memo Diaz



Omar Salgado

That first game was crazy. To see the fans. They’re the best in the league, no doubt. No other stadium gets this rowdy. These people are fanatics.

For sure. You can tell they just love soccer. No matter what the score is, they’re in the stands going nuts. It means a lot.


Memo Diaz

But it also means that as soon as you pull on the jersey, you know you’ve got to go out there and represent.


Memo Diaz


El Paso Locomotive jerseys representing El Paso Strong. | El Paso Locomotive FC

The tragedy on August 3 has seen the community rally to support those affected, with “El Paso Strong Night” part of that effort. Locomotive FC’s jerseys were adorned with #ElPasoStrong patches that will be worn for the remainder of the season, with a portion of the proceeds from Saturday night’s ticket sales to be donated to the victim relief funds.



Omar Salgado

I first heard about the shooting while I was at breakfast with friends. Our phones all started blowing up with notifications. I couldn’t believe it.


Omar Salgado

You hear about things like this, but you never think it’s going to happen near you. It breaks my heart. El Paso is a big family. We respect each other, love each other, and are welcoming to newcomers. It’s unfathomable. It’s not representative of who we are as a community.



Same here. I was at home. It was a gameday and I was just relaxing. We found out there was an amber alert, and we were just sitting in our living room, watching what was going on. I just remember thinking ‘In my city? Really?’ Like Omar said you just never think you’ll see it in your own town, in your own city.


Memo Diaz

I think where we are now though is just wanting to do everything we can to help our city. Soccer has that power. We represent our community when we take the field and I feel like if we give them some good performances, we can help bring people together to heal.


Memo Diaz


El Paso native Omar Salgado takes a post-game selfie with Locomotive FC fans on #ElPasoStrong Night at Southwest University Park on August 17. | Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC

Saturday night began that process as Salgado scored in Locomotive FC’s victory against Tacoma Defiance. The win was highlighted by Edson Partida’s spectacular bicycle kick goal, which grabbed the national spotlight and was selected as the No. 1 play on Saturday in ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10.

 

The night was a perfect representation of the El Paso community Locomotive FC represents.



Omar Salgado

Our soccer club is representative of our community. Diversity is our biggest strength. We learn from each other. We’re tolerant. We’re respectful. We may view life differently, but we do it together.


Omar Salgado

And right now, our focus is on helping our community heal. This is an important time for all of us.

El Paso Strong.


Memo Diaz

Omar Salgado

El Paso Strong.

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