Home News Former Chivas stars host soccer camp in East Bay community

Former Chivas stars host soccer camp in East Bay community


RICHMOND — The registration line to get into the Dream Big Soccer Camp stretched around Richmond High’s campus on Monday night. 

Hundreds of children and their parents waited patiently to see Héctor Reynoso, Tilon Chávez and Omar Esparza – three fan favorite players of the La Liga MX team Chivas – as the trio held the first of a two-day soccer camp at the Richmond school.

Some of the camp-goers dawned the red pin stripes of the Mexico City team.

For the three Mexican stalwarts, hosting the camp was a chance to give back to the community and help grow the game for young Mexican-American players. Though the former Chivas starters are retired from playing professionally, they still find ways to be involved in the game.

“We want to come here and give these kids an experience that will last a lifetime,” Reynoso said through a translator. “It’s a good opportunity for the kids here to be able to train with ex-players and take what they can from these two days and onto whatever they pursue.” 

Chivas, also known as C.D. Guadalajara, is one of Mexico’s most popular professional soccer clubs. The team has fielded some of the best Mexican players in MLS, such as former L.A. Galaxy star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and current LAFC forward Carlos Vela.

The trio recently played in the Clásico De Leyendas on Sunday at PayPal Park.

Reynoso is the most popular of the three at the Richmond camp. The 43-year-old played 17 years professionally, most notably during a 12-year stretch in the 2000s as a center back for Chivas. He made 368 appearances with the club and had 26 goals. 

Chávez was a midfielder for Chivas in the 1990s and had a 19-year career playing professionally in Mexico. Esparza played for Chivas for 10 seasons and won the U17 World Cup with Mexico in 2005.

Jaime Alejandre, the Dream Big Director and semi-pro player for the Bay Area’s San Pablo FC, met the three Chivas players in April during a match at Richmond High against Leyendas de Guadalajara — a team that consists of former players who used to play for Chivas.

After a few conversations, Alejandre convinced Reynoso, Chávez and Esparza to come back to Richmond to host the Dream Big Soccer Camp. 

“To be able to witness people in tears crying, thanking the people who made this happen for making their wishes come true of seeing their heroes and idols was amazing,” Reynoso said. “In Richmond, we felt something different and something special. I was happy to come back.”

When the children finally got onto the field Monday morning, the joy on their faces was evident. 

The three players signed autographs and interacted with many of the camp participants when the gates opened.

They then led the group in warmups. 

As kids weaved in and out of cone drills, Reynoso and his teammates gave words of instruction and encouragement as if they were training the next group of young stars. 

“It’s very easy and very comfortable for me out here because all three of us were formed and developed like this by Chivas,” Chávez said through a translator. “We’re family pretty much and we’re always working together. Being here to teach with them is a beautiful thing.”

Some kids at the camp were learning about the Mexican stars for the first time. While Alejandre grew up watching Chivas, many of the camp’s athletes only know the likes of current soccer stars like Messi, Ronaldo and Mbappé. 

Bringing former Chivas players back to Richmond to teach a group of kids that was mostly Mexican-American athletes and parents meant a lot to Alejandre. 

“Being able to give these kids something I used to watch, admire and idolize is everything,” Alejandre said. “Picking these guys up at the airport, I was like a little kid. I just want these kids to know what they have here. The presence of these three gentlemen is not something to take lightly.”

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