A two artificial turf “footbolito” soccer fields, right across from the Megaplaza Mall, have been attracting the attention of football fans and drivers who see games played there in the afternoon, and especially at night, under bright halogen lights. Located half way between French Harbour and Los Fuertes, on the main road, right across from island’s biggest shopping center, the facility has the greatest visibility and location.
These types of privately owned “footbolito” sports fields have been multiplying all over Honduras and providing the public with a way to stay fit. Fernando Suarez, 45, the owner and founder of Isports (Islands Sports Center) that runs the two “footbolito” fields and sand volleyball court, says that there are around 200 mini soccer fields in Honduras. “Tegucigalpa has now around 20 “footbolito” facilities, San Pedro Sula has 15 and La Ceiba has 6,” says Suarez. Until recently Roatan’s only mini football facility was Kix Sports in Coxen Hole.
The high energy “footbolito” game is played on a smaller than regular soccer field: 36 by 21 meters. A net, suspended from 4.5 meters and just outside the field boundaries allow spectators to easily follow the game and be just meters from the action. The game is faster, requires less running, and is more manageable by people in their 30s and 40s. “Most Hondurans get their workout on these fields, not at the big stadiums,” says Suarez. “I spent three months on the island looking at what business to open,” says Suarez who’s last job was as Charge d’affaires at a Honduran embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.
Isports opened in February an immediately found a following in the French Harbour and Los Fuertes public. “We just opened up and the people started coming. It’s friends who want to play after work, taxi drivers, women groups,” says Suarez. “Women come here because they feel respected and safe. If someone fights they will be ejected and banned from the facility. We had two people banned so far.”
Seven days a week, the fields can be booked for Lps. 400 an hour in the day time, and after 6pm, with the lights turned on, for Lps. 850. “That’s not much – a price of a beer if everyone on the team pays,” says Suarez who estimates that his clientele is 40% islanders and 60% Spanish. With the rental of the field the group is given a free soccer ball and jerseys. One missing element of making the “footbolito” experience is low bounce Futsal ball that is a bit heavier and smaller that regular football and more appropriate to the smaller field.
“It’s a perfect location for us to come from Oak Ridge and Punta Gorda,” said Jason Old, executive director of the CAN Futbol Foundation – an organization working with Roatan at-risk youth. Old had brought a group of volunteers and members of the foundation to enjoy an hour of play at the Isports field. “The field gives you way to develop technique for the players they are not able to on a regular field.”
While playing soccer the players typically wear only running shoes, but sometimes wear only socks or go barefoot. Compared to grass, artificial turf is easy to maintain, lasts longer, requires no watering, and playing on turf versus grass places less stress on players joints.
In mid May Suarez finished a regulation sand volleyball court that he hopes will attract regular crowd and eventually competitions. Isports has signed a five year lease for the land from the Megaplaza Mall. Suarez is working on finishing a jogging track that would circle the entire facility, and is looking at building a climbing wall and batting cage. [/private]