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Zazueta, gift from Mexico


When he makes the trip from Hermosillo, opponents have a right to get nervous.

When Narcisso Zazueta is in town for a game, the pregame hours of Tucson Amigos contests seem to present opposite kinds of tension: Amigos players have a keen anticipation. Opponents have feelings of dread.

Zazueta has that kind of an effect. Whether he is able to make the five-hour drive from his home in Hermosillo, Son., has a direct bearing on the outcome of the game.

He has competed in just five Amigos games, yet Zazueta is the team’s leading scorer with six goals. Clearly, he is in a class by himself, or at least a cut above the average United States Interregional Soccer League performer.

“He just makes everybody play better just by being there and playing with his enthusiasm and talent,’ said coach Wolfgang Weber, whose Amigos (5-9) return home tonight at Rincon Stadium to meet the Las Vegas Quicksilvers (0-7) at 7:30.

“He has natural soccer instincts, speed, and he is very strong,’ Weber said. “He has soccer in his blood. And just having him there with his talent makes our players play better.’

“Soccer in his blood’ also means Zazueta would be only too glad to shed his blood for the game. The sacrifice he makes in playing for the Amigos suggests that.

Two weeks ago, he scored both goals in Tucson’s 2-0 win at Valley Golden, Calif., after driving to Tucson and then making a 10-hour trip to the San Fernando Valley community of Balboa.

Consider that Amgios players are not professionals and that love of the game – and playing – is the only motivation. Zazueta just stretches it to an extreme.

“I want to experience different aspects of the world and the game of soccer,’ Zazueta said in Spanish, through an interpreter. “Yes, I love the game. The time spent really doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to me.’

Zazueta doesn’t play just for himself. In a 2-0 loss to El Paso early this month, his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame drooped perhaps lowest among the disconsolate players.

“I’m a team player. Soccer is a team game,’ Zazueta said, “and I wish the Amigos would incorporate more experienced players. I’ve been with them for three years off and on, and except for the first year, it has been difficult. This year it has been tougher because of the transition of different players.

“But I realize it’s tough because these players are not pros and many of them are very young. But I’m still happy to be able to be part of the team.’

In Zazueta’s first year with the Amigos he joined with Nigerian Olu (John) Molomo to provide “the best forward combination the league has ever had,’ according to Weber. The Amigos were 1-6 when the two came to play and finished the season as a national playoffs semifinalist.

“We would feed off each other and we had such smooth consistency,’ he said. “That’s the way the game must be played. That is the makeup of a good team.

“I know it’s hard here to get that because of the turnover, but we need more consistency. The language barrier hurts me in teaching things here, but I do my best.’

Weber marvels at Zazueta’s handling of “soccer as an international language.’

“Instinctively, he knows,’ Weber said. “If I’m talking to the players and I might mark strategy on the chalkboard, he nods and understands. The language barrier doesn’t affect his ability to get knowledge of the game across to players. And he is a physical education and soccer teacher in Mexico.’

Zazueta said his goal is to become a first-division Mexican player, and that is bad news for the Amigos.

In early July, he will begin competing in the second division of national play for 10 months. Appearances for the Amigos after that are very iffy.

“We can only be grateful we’ve been able to experience his help and have a player of his caliber,’ Weber said. “I regret we couldn’t have had him more.

“We have had five overtime games (last week’s 3-2 loss to New Mexico the latest, sans Zazueta). If we had been able to have Narcisso in all those overtime games, there would be no doubt that we would now be a playoff contender.’

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