A love for soccer has led Real Winter Garden Manager Cristian Guare to put on pick-up games.
Streaks of purple and gold flash across the soft, green grass of the practice field at Deputy Scott Pine Community Park.
Despite the stymying heat on this cloudless Sunday afternoon, the 22 players in their brightly colored jerseys run at full sprint and play with a bounce in their step as they enjoy a game of pick-up soccer.
They’re just happy to have a place to play, and so is Winter Garden resident Cristian Guare — the man who brought this whole thing together.
“I love the idea of just coming out — pretty much forget about everything — and kick the ball around and joke around with the guys,” Guare said.
Guare’s pick-up games at the park have drawn soccer lovers looking for a place to play from all over — including Winter Garden and Windermere.
In Winter Garden particularly, it’s been a hassle to find somewhere to get some playing time in, Winter Garden resident Bruno Chionha said.
Chionha ventured out to the park with some friends after hearing that there were some games going on. It was something he couldn’t pass up — despite the hot weather.
“A lot of people here have been playing for years and years, and when you want to play soccer with a few boys, nothing will stop you,” Chionha said.
FINDING A HOME
Getting the pick-up games off the ground at Deputy Scott Pine Community Park was no easy feat for Guare, who had been wandering the proverbial desert for the past five to six years to find a home for this idea of his that was spawned from a need for summer soccer.
Having been involved with the Central Florida Soccer League for 20 years, Guare knew that once the season ended in the spring, there wouldn’t be any soccer throughout the summer months.
“During the offseason we were all wondering what we could do with our lives when there was no soccer,” Guare said. “We could have spent time with our kids and our families, but that wasn’t enough for us — we wanted something more, so after I started my own team (Real Winter Garden) six years ago, I started looking around for fields.”
That would be the start of the frustration for Guare, whose games were jumping from place to place.
At first he held pick-up soccer at Ward Park in Winter Park, but he could only rent fields on the weekends or whenever available — it wasn’t consistent enough for Guare’s liking.
Then for the next couple of years, Guare would take his games further northeast to Boombah Sports Complex at Seminole County in Sanford. It was a solid location, but it was a decent drive and he wanted something closer to home.
“Here in Winter Garden, we never really found a place to actually rent and have organized pickups,” Guare said. “We tried without having to rent them, but we always got kicked out, because you can’t have organized soccer without renting a field — even if no one is using them.”
Once Guare learned the hard way that he had to go through the proper channels in order to rent a field, he waited three to four years before finally getting a spot reserved at the park.
Many of the players who make their way down to Windermere have played for Guare’s Real Winter Garden at some point in time, while others are new guys looking to take advantage of some simple, cheap recreational soccer.
“It’s relatively inexpensive, but this field is perfectly playable and the grass is not too long — it’s actually pretty nice,” Chionha said.
The pick-up games offer up a place for Guare and local players to let off steam after busy, stressful days out in the real world.
For Guare, who works as a nurse practitioner, it’s that need to find an outlet for stress that keeps him coming back.
“I think (everyone) must have as much stress that I have, because they keep coming out,” Guare said with a laugh. “When you grow up and the very first sport that you were introduced to is soccer … it just gets engraved. Then you use it not only as recreational, but also as a stress reliever — that brings it to another level.”