Hope College has fielded a football team for 90 years with games over the years against a variety of teams ranging from high schools to semi-pros to collegiate.

 Hope College has fielded a football team for 90 years with games over the years against a variety of teams ranging from high schools to semi-pros to collegiate.

On Saturday, Sept. 4 the Flying Dutchmen will add yet another chapter to their storied history when they host the Wildcats of the Autonomous University of Queretaro, Mexico in a pre-season exhibition game at Holland Municipal Stadium. Kickoff will be 6:30 p.m.

It is believed to be the first time that a team from the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) has played an international opponent.

"The decade of the 1990s has been witness to a wonderful new partnership between the peoples of two great cities," noted Holland Mayor Albert McGeehan. "These pioneering cooperative agreements first began between the Autonomous University of Queretaro and Hope College. This relationship in just a few short years has yielded a bounty of new-found educational opportunities for young men and women from both institutions."

In 1995 city officials of the Holland and Santiago de Queretaro forged new political, cultural, educational and economic bonds between the two communities. Hope College and the Autonomous University of Queretaro established a formal agreement in 1996 which allows the institutions to send students and faculty to each other's campus.

One of the exchanges sent former Hope's George Kraft to Queretaro in 1997 where he shared his expertise as offensive line coach. Chair of the department of kinesiology, Kraft was a member of the football coaching staff for three decades. He is the author of a textbook on aspects of the coaching of football. Members of the Queretaro football coaching staff have also been to Hope observing the team's practice regime and game preparations.

Queretaro introduced the game of "American" football in 1970, but it has only been at its present level since 1993. There are three levels of competition in Mexico -- children, juvenile and major. A women's team was started in 1997 and cheerleaders were introduced to the program last year.

The major team coming to Holland consists of a mixture of students from the university and "enthusiastic" former college players. In 1997 the team's running back, Ricardo Baca, was named the best national runner as he broke records for most yards in a season. The Wildcats were 5-4 in 1997 and 5-3 last year.

The team, in its promotional material notes: "We have participated in almost every championship in all categories. We have tasted the flavor of success and failure, but the one we like the best is the one of participation. One of our most important achievements as an institution was the creation of our breeding ground of good football players, thus offering our community an excellent opportunity for a healthy, family gathering and challenging activity for children."

The 52-member Queretaro delegation will arrive in Holland on Thursday, Sept. 2. The players will be hosted by members of the Hope day. In addition to preparing for the game, the team will have opportunities to experience the Hope campus, Holland and western Michigan. A highlight will be their attendance at a Whitecaps baseball game on Sept. 2.

The Flying Dutchmen began preparations for the season on Monday (Aug. 23). The teams will have two-a-day practices until school begins on Tuesday, Aug. 31. The exhibition game with Queretaro will replace the traditional blue-and-white intra-squad scrimmage. The regular season opener will be Saturday, Sept. 11 when the Flying Dutchmen host Augustana College of Illinois for the 34th annual Hope/Holland Community Day game.