In Xejuyup’s town fair, loud music blasts in the background as the announcer calls for the two soccer teams who will face each other. CD Suchitepéquez’s under 20 squad, already on the pitch, awaits for their opponents in their usual blue and white uniforms. Their rival, CSD Xejuyup, walks out of the dressing room clad in the town’s ancestral clothing to the sound of firecrackers and a roaring crowd. Needless to say, Xejuyup’s uniform stands out. “There’s always a few people who mock us,” points out the team’s founder, Antonio Peruchú. “But most people like it.”
Mr. Peruchú founded the team in 1982 when he was asked to put together a squad for a carnival at another town. His team was to play an exhibition game before the main event: a match between an Austrian team and CD Suchitepéquez. Mr. Peruchú handpicked the best players available in his hometown of Xejuyup, and they agreed to use the town’s traditional attire as the team’s uniform. The players’ skilled performance coupled with their peculiar clothing won the crowd over, and they were invited to play in different municipalities around the country after that one fateful match.
A bit over three decades later, Mr. Peruchú’s own son leads the squad as team captain/manager against 2015’s under 20 national champions. This is nothing more than an exhibition match, however. CSD Xejuyup cannot compete in any official matches as their eye-catching uniform is not in compliance with the rules established by the sport’s governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).
For most of the match, Xejuyup endures CD Suchitepéquez’s relentless offensive. They go toe to toe until the very last few minutes of the first half: a foul leads to a free-kick which, in turn, becomes a well-placed pass for a header. The ball hits the net before Xejuyup’s defense knows what’s happening.
Going into the second half, Xejuyup’s cotton shirts and wool skirts grow heavier as sweat seeps into the fabric. The players become slower, but their resolve remains unchanged. Suddenly, Xejuyup’s captain offers a glimmer of hope through a breakaway play. With his shirt already ragged from all the tugging and pulling during the game, he rushes with the ball past Suchitepéquez’s defense only to barely miss the game-tying shot. The match ends with Suchitepéquez emerging as the victor.
After a game like this one, Xejuyup’s uniforms may end up torn and ragged. However, they continue to wear them because they hold a special significance for the townspeople of Xejuyup. The Kutin, a bright-red shirt with blue and yellow details, represents the elements. The Coxtar, a type of kilt patterned like a chessboard, depicts the twilight as seen through the mountains. Lastly, the Pas, a sash that holds the Coxtar, holds the representation of the telluric energy of the feathered serpent who created the universe in the Mayan mythos.
These uniforms are expensive, too. The entire attire can cost up to Q. 1500 (USD 200.00), which is why very few men in Xejuyup actually wear it. Only the women in town still wear their ancestral clothing. So, according to Mr. Perechu, the team borrows their uniform from someone. But, even with the high costs of the uniform and their obvious frailty, the players of Xejuyup are always proud to sport their uniforms. As they mention in a press release they keep handy for whenever they meet a member of the press, they feel like it brings them closer to the Ajaw Ajpu, which represents the traditional Mayan Ball Game. And, win or lose, the crowd is always proud of them, too.