Young United fans have own group

From left, Lina and Caleb Barnes hold the Los Cursitos flag before the start of the march into the stadium for last Saturday’s New Mexico United home match. The fan group is aimed at ages 13-under and is growing. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Xavier Obando, Jesse Barnes and Phil Leckman have teamed up to create a group that ensures cheering on New Mexico United is also for the children.

After United’s popularity exploded during its initial USL championship season in 2019, the trio decided to form a group similar to The Curse, United’s official supporters group, but aimed at and catering to ages 13 and younger.

In early 2020, Los Cursitos was born.

Obando, an architect from Ecuador, was instrumental in building Los Cursitos and is the acting president of the group.

Obando said he fell in love with culture and architecture in New Mexico after moving from Portland, Oregon, and he wants to pass that love for his state on to a younger generation. He also wants to help bring kids together.

“We want to provide a fun environment where they can enjoy and create their own experience,” Obando said. “The ultimate goal is to create a sense of identity around New Mexico United and to help the kids be proud of this state. There’s a lot of good happening in New Mexico.”

Leckman, an archeologist who was born in New Mexico, says the group is also about unity.

“It’s about inclusion and bringing together people from all over the state and different walks of life,” Leckman said. “It’s a lot of participation and doing stuff together. We’re trying to make sure the club matters to the whole community and is something that matters and is a source of pride and excitement for everyone in New Mexico.”

Barnes, a family medicine doctor who was born in Boston, said they thought it’d be beneficial for the children and the parents to create a group for younger fans.

“Our mission when we came together was to create an open and welcoming community where children can get together to support (United),” Barnes said. “We pulled together a group of families with younger children who wanted to take part in it.”

Shortly after the group came together, the world changed because of COVID.

“We had a lot of really cool plans for the 2020 season, including tailgate opportunities and collaborative events with the team,” Barnes said. “All that got put on hold because of the pandemic. 2020 was a challenging year for many, many reasons. But specifically for Los Cursitos, we wanted to keep safety first so we were fairly limited. Not being able to get together and do stuff in person was a challenge.”

Los Cursitos was able to do some activities during the pandemic, including a Mother’s Day chalk art competition, weekly book readings on Facebook Live and other online activities.

“We were doing a lot of stuff online during the early part of the pandemic,” Leckman said. “People stepped up to help out when everyone was locked down and not sure how long it was going to last.”

Barnes said 2021 is about trying to bring the group back together as safely as possible.

“One of the challenges is with most of our group being under 12, it’s a population that hasn’t been able to get vaccinated,” Barnes said. “We’re being a little bit more careful than the adult group, we want to make sure the activities we’re planning are safe.”

Within the first few weeks of becoming a supporters group, about 50 people signed up for membership, and the group has doubled since then. Memberships to Los Cursitos are sold through cursenm.com.

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