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Jesus Arambula-This is my story


My story, like any other Mexican American child, started with a ball.


It was in Mexico where I can truly say my “street soccer” journey started

My father was a Catholic missionary, so from the moment I was able to walk he would take me abroad to Mexico with him. These frequent trips stopped because I had a kidney transplant at around the age of 12. I had to stay in Los Angeles after that, but it was in Mexico where I can truly say my “street soccer” journey started. Over there, all the kids play in the streets with rubber balls, plastic bottles, bottle caps—anything that resembled a ball would be used to play “picas” or “retas,” meaning pickup.



I used the ball to make friends and break the ice with my classmates during recess

From an early age, I was attracted to the competition and the freedom soccer gave me. I was in Mexico so frequently I had to learn English in school, but I used the ball to make friends and break the ice with my classmates during recess. As I grew older, I had many opportunities in the sport, and even though I had several interests in school, it was the ball that always seemed to be next to me. From elementary through high school, my team won many titles, but the most important one was the CIF Championship in 2004, which we won when I was junior. It was also during my high school days my official journey with street soccer took off. I was greatly inspired by Ronaldinho and the campaigns he was doing with Nike at the time, like “The Cage” 3v3 matches and “joga bonito.” The numerous commercials and activations really caught my attention and inspired me to “follow the ball” wherever it took me.


I would skip school to find a pickup game and play football.

When I was in college, I took what I had learned in the streets and tried to translate it onto the pitch. I could tell I played differently and things that seemed hard to others were fairly easy for me. After getting seriously injured in preseason at Pasadena City College, and again when I transferred to Rio Hondo College, that was my escape from it all—a ball and my friends. I really took to heart what Ronaldinho said once in a commercial—I would skip school to find a pickup game and play football.


To me, they were what I wanted to be when I grew up

As I went deeper and deeper into the street soccer rabbit hole I kept meeting people and started becoming friends with what you would now call “influencers” of the game, like the Nike Squad. I met Tim Donnelly, Adriano de Lima, JT (Jason Thompson), and Lawrence Smalls. To me, they were what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started playing with them Sunday afternoons, and it was like our little club. Street players from around Los Angeles would meet up and play for around three or four hours until we were tired. I learned a lot but what really got me was the sense of community I had there, and of course the way we played! It was free and we could express ourselves with the ball.


I decided I needed to take that step back from being a player to being what I kind of wish I had growing up

After some years passed, I finished college, and really went deep into what is now my current lifestyle. I became a full-time street player and of course practiced some freestyle. Back then, we were “hybrids” because we would mix both sports and it was our way of playing beautiful. I started realizing this way of playing had an actual culture with pioneers and creators. I learned about Edward van Gils, Issy Hitman, and Touzani and his infamous YouTube video that helped start a revolution for many of today’s influencers of the game. As time passed, I saw people come in and out of the scene. Street soccer players and freestylers started creating their own communities and some would split off, but to me they were all my friends.

More and more soccer brands started to do activations, especially during the World Cup, and that’s what I would look for was the street soccer events companies would put on. It was mainly Nike at the time that would host these activations, and some of the guys I looked up to would help create them, so I always felt at home. But it wasn’t enough! I needed more! I wanted for this to be really a culture and a lifestyle, kind of like skateboarding. But I knew it wasn’t going to build itself. That’s when I decided I needed to take that step back from being a player to being what I kind of wish I had growing up—a platform and an identity I could look up to and that would guide me. That’s when bola was created. I named it bola because during this time in the streets, freestylers and street players wouldn’t get along because certain individuals started to come into our sport and create division. They tried to make money off talented teenagers who just wanted to ball! So I gathered both worlds and put them into one and that’s how bola was created, and it’s had a snowball effect since then.


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