LOGAN SQUARE — A former football player whose career earned him a spot in the Mexico Football Hall of Fame is launching a youth camp in Logan Square to give neighborhood kids a positive outlet.
Omar Ureña Jimenez, a football journalist who played in Mexico in college and on a semipro team, is bringing his program, called Chicago Tochito Academy, to the Windy City Fieldhouse at 2367 W. Logan Blvd. in mid-April.
At the camp, kids will learn the fundamentals of flag football and sports journalism over the course of roughly seven weeks. Jimenez will serve as the coach, though he’s enlisted friends — a former player and a coach — to help via Zoom.
Jimenez is recruiting boys and girls ages 11-13. The camp costs $320 for the season. He’s also offering scholarships to two boys and two girls. The scholarships are for kids whose parents are undocumented immigrants and lost a job during the coronavirus pandemic. Scholarship tryouts are set for May 5.
Chicago Tochito Academy is a dream realized for Jimenez, who has spent the past several years working in the hospitality industry.
Jimenez was a security guard at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel before the pandemic hit and he lost his job. Before that, he was a doorman at Big Star and Park & Field.
While working as a doorman, Jimenez launched the Chicago Restaurant Flag Football League, drawing on his many years of experience playing football and writing about the sport. The league, made up of restaurant and bar workers in the area, exploded in popularity; at one point, it had about 90 players.
But Jimenez said he’s always wanted to launch a flag football program geared toward kids. He said he came up with the idea nearly 20 years ago as a way to help kids avoid gun violence plaguing the neighborhood, but for one reason or another the project never got off the ground.
“I was really concerned about the news, about teenagers who lost their lives, all of the problems with gang members and all of that,” he said.
Now, after securing a contract with the Logan Square sports complex, Jimenez is finally launching the program — in the neighborhood where he lives, no less.
“I feel that everything I’ve done in my life has led me to this point,” he said. “This is my time to spread my knowledge to the younger generation so they can learn the sport.”
Jimenez fell in love with football at a young age watching his dad play for the Polytechnic Cheyennes.
Jimenez went on to play offensive guard for the University of Mexico’s Condors from 1992-1996 and offensive line and tackle for Mexico’s Horda Dorada team from 2006-2008. While on the Condors, he was selected to play in the Classic Bowl game three times. He was inducted into the Mexico Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
Since 2017, Jimenez has hosted a football radio show on Lumpen Radio, WLPN LP 105.5 FM. He’s also the editor of Graficosports.com.
As a sports journalist, Jimenez said he’s noticed there aren’t many Latino kids on college teams in the United States. He said he hopes to change that with this program.
“The ultimate goal with this project is to see students coming from my academy get scholarships to play college football in Mexico or in the U.S.,” he said, adding later, “I can’t wait to see kids … start their own legacy.”
For more information about Chicago Tochito Academy, and to register, visit the camp’s website.
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