NOTE/NOTA: I will make a Romanian version very soon, after I have a couple of hours of sleep and work in the translation / Voi face o versiune în română în curând, dupa câteva ore de somn și să lucrez în traducerea.

Coatlicue is the Aztec earth goddess, symbol of the earth as both creator and destroyer, mother of the gods and mortals. Death and rebirth.

It’s morning, everybody back home. I keep getting lot of notifications, our newly made friends connecting through Facebook.

As I read through the lines of the people that participated, all have similar messages and from my point of view, lessons.

Please bare with me in this effort of trying to put some thoughts about this tournament and experiences we went through.

This was not an easy trip, nobody ever said was gonna be, but it certainly went awfully crazy all of a sudden. Yes, we had lot of inconveniences, problems to be solved on the spot, 3 injuries, we had to go through good, bad and worst times. But we were not alone, all the teams that attend the Cup did, some more than others. Was unbelievable that one single persons could ruin the logistics part and another the sports part. But some people stepped up to try to not make things fall down.

One of the first lessons here is what it is by now a very known phrase: When things are good, everybody is with you and supportive. But when things go bad is when you discover who is with you until the end who can actually help you go through, I believe all the teams went through this one during our times in Mexico.

But was this all? Just some bad times? It’s actually more complicated than that. But it makes no sense in going through that all over again because in the end, if anybody learn something was that American Football goes beyond all this. And here is where we can learn one more lesson: American football is what it is because of the strong values that players, coaches and family learn and in moments of need they are there to support you. I felt so moved and great when I saw that when the call to help was launched, lot of people helped the most teams in need, getting covers, cooking food and so on.

Some time ago I read an article that said that in Europe was better that values and all the mental thing was not necessarily an emphasis and was better to just play for play. I always disagree and this event proved me right, American Football cannot go without those values. Persons like Christian Luna and all the others which unfortunately I don’t know all your names (but you know who you are!), thank you for that support, was a lesson that hopefully all teams understand now.

One of the reasons I decided to take Crusaders to the Copa America was for them to find the small pieces that were missing in us as a team and the understanding that this sport is more than the mere sport itself, maybe because of culture, maybe because the lack of years of experience. I know for a fact that few understood and got big positive lessons that will make them improve in all aspects, not only sport wise but personal level too. Here I personally got a big reminder of never let yourself be that down on difficulties and had a very nice moment, Thank you Dary and all the young Yaks! Thank you for that wonderful ride in your bus, Yaks from Bogota, Colombia. It was wonderful fun, refreshing and gave me some nice moments, which makes us have one more lesson: No matter how hard things are, we should always try to keep a good attitude, a smile and disregard all the bad attitudes/vibes and try to have fun. Without having fun this sport also becomes meaningless and becomes just a mere contact sport. Enjoy every single moment of it, smile, keep a positive attitude, this will always reflect in the field as well.

Next lesson to remember: There’s a time and moment for everything. Focus and the ability to put our priorities in place is very important. The main reason we went all there is to play football, to develop, to learn something from each other and from the different cultures.

This leads me to the next one: Never isolate yourselves, mingle around. You never know who will you meet. I was glad to see that language was not a barrier, at least for most of the people, it’s all about wanting and trying to make friends. Either was English, Portuguese, Spanish or Romanian, I’m glad many tried to make new friends, which was one of the reasons of this tournament.

Violence always breeds more violence, leads to hate and suffering. Yes I know, sounds like Yoda, but is a very truth statement. And hopefully this is a lesson that many will learn and that always dialogue is a better path.

This post is already extending a lot, but, there are a couple of more lessons: Do the right thing. We won the right to play a semifinal and have chance for the final, the president of UIDFAL changed and already established format with couple of hours before games. This shouldn’t have happened. Crusaders agreed to play for third place under protest and every player and myself had an X in helmets and caps. Some players made as well a banner expressing our disagreement which we hanged at the stadium. After the warm up we were told by the same person that all was arranged and corrected and that our game vs Peru would be a semifinal (originally we should have played against Botafogo Challengers) and that we should remove the banner. We did and we got lied. We won the game giving us the chance to play in the final for the championship. But it seems the Brazilian teams got told another story. The only intention of this lie was to remove the banner. This action was not only an insult to us, but an insult the sport itself.

While that person lost any respect and trust by lot of people, we were able to win the respect of others by doing the right thing. And this one leads me to a final one (which doesn’t really mean there aren’t more, I’m sure there are many more lessons that could be mentioned), be truth to yourself. Crusaders has been always a team trying to do every little thing correctly, teaching the values of the sport to their players, we have been through some very bad moments since 2010, but also some very nice ones, the fact we we keep respecting our values as a team, doing the right things, showing respect, listening and considering the opinions of others, keeping the diversity and multiculturalism, trying to work with everybody, and all the other values of the sport like teamwork, responsibility, discipline, accountability, etc. This is not an easy path. Is a hard one to follow, but is one that I chose to do, one that I hope will be followed by my fellow Crusaders and at the end of the long road you can actually see how this can actually change lives for good.

I would like to thank Rodolfo and his mom, for stepping up in lot of things trying to solve the problems left by 1 person, the American football community in Mexico that behind scenes helped and supported this event, Roger and Hugo Rios for the support and being the real face Huixquilucan of the government of trying to solve all the problems the moment things were at the worst and your support for our injured guys, thanks to Bogota Yaks, Botafogo Challengers, Titanes de Cali, GET Eagles, Paulinia Mavericks, Peru, Bucaneros, Bomberos and Leones for the good and bad moments we had to share and endure, united we will stand for sure. To our friends of Mures Monsters, for their support, friendship and great attitude all the time.

Thank you to all my family, friends and persons that supported Crusaders at the games!!!! YOU ROCK!!

A BIG thank you to all the families of players that from far away supported us, without you nothing of this would have been possible either.

And of course, all CRUSADERS PLAYERS!

I can’t wait to meet you all again! And even go again through all of it, including all the sleepless nights, if that is what it takes to meet such nice persons.

So officially, Crusaders is 3rd place. We have a championship ahead and now is the time to prepare for it and now we close one more chapter of our history. Like I mentioned at the start, we died and rebirth in this trip, under the guidance of Coatlicue.

A final thank you to whoever you are that made it to the end of this post. 😉

Rafael Ruiz.