In Mexico, the term mamá luchona roughly translates to "scrappy mom," usually referring in a derogatory fashion to a young single mom who has to act as both mother and father to her kids. In recent years, children of single moms have reclaimed the term, telling everyone about their incredible moms who worked twice as hard to provide for their family.
The Aguirre brothers are no exception. Raised in a small town by their single mother, the three young men — Jorge, Jared and Eduardo — credit her with making the best of a difficult situation.
"These days we'd call her a mamá luchona. She never let us down and always pushed us forward every single moment," said Jorge, who felt a little more of the pressure to play a fatherly role as the oldest of the brothers.
"My childhood was a bit difficult. I was not very sociable," he said. "But I love my brothers. They're like my babies; I took care of them since they were little."
Jared agreed, adding, "My brothers are my best friends, my closest confidants. We all want the best for each other, and whether we're joking or being affectionate or even getting angry, family comes first."
Soccer helped the Aguirre brothers strengthen their bond. They loved playing games in the streets with their friends and watching the sport on TV. "For me, every time I watched soccer on TV, the only thing I wanted at that moment was to one day be there on the field with the whole stadium full, with all the people cheering for me," said Jared. "That's what motivated me to keep going."
The brothers continued playing soccer all through high school, eventually joining the Saved by Soccer program and impressing the coaches with their natural skill. For three boys who had grown up without their father, the approval of a coach was something new.
"Sometimes we felt like the coach was our dad because we saw him more than our parents. We were at soccer practice more than we were home," said Jared. "He set a good example to follow and always saw the good in us."
As the Aguirre brothers grew more involved with Saved by Soccer, the program began to touch their entire family.
"As we grew older, the support from our dad got better," said Jorge. "The truth is, a lot of that has to do with soccer and the community center. It was a radical change. Because we were playing soccer, it took us away from many problems."
Both brothers agreed that soccer provided them with an escape from the drug violence that plagues many young people in across Mexico.
"Soccer is a beautiful sport," said Jared. "It helps you let off steam. You really go to another world every time you're on the field. You get distracted from your problems and are focused only on soccer and on having fun. That's why I play."
Jorge added, "It's like a medicine for the heart."
That medicine saved their lives and provided them with opportunities they only dared to dream of as children. Eduardo, or "Lalo," as his friends call him, joined the U15 Mexican national team, then the U17 team, and is now on track for the U20 World Cup. Jared and Jorge play for Club Calor, the Third Division team run through the Saved by Soccer program, with the goal of someday playing First Division soccer.
"Children on the youth teams say to me, 'I want to be like Lalo Aguirre and play soccer,' or 'I want to be like Jared because he's so fast and strong.' So many children come from difficult backgrounds or have a parent affected by drugs like we did, and they don't want to be like their dad, but they don't see any other way. So it's incredible to see them have these dreams — and their dreams are to be like my brothers!" Jorge said.
Traces of Jorge's days as a surrogate father for his brothers are evident when he speaks about how far his family has come. "I'm so proud of my brothers, and they continue to rise above expectations. That's the only thing I want for them — the best, always and forever."
Learn more at savedbysoccer.com