Football and basketball may draw the spectators and cheerleaders, but soccer to me is like a chess game with my feet — a mental and physical workout. I remember the lesson, every time I play, that like a chess game, you cant forget the presence of the many other players on your team and on the other side. My seriousness, even when playing casually, drives some of my friends insane, but the lessons that have been drilled into me have been too hard-won for me to put aside easily. “Dont be so hard on them,” my aunt will say as I try to teach one of my cousins the right way to stop a ball when it skids into the net.
I firmly believe that taking something that is just a game very seriously is the only way to derive serious knowledge and serious fun from that game. And soccer has been more than a source of physical and personal enrichment for me in recent years. Soccer has also opened up an entirely new world to me of sports fandom on an international level. My friends who love baseball and football might talk to other Americans across the country, but to love soccer and follow the best of the best requires a player to speak many languages and to be fluent in many cultures.
Online, because I follow European and world soccer (football) Ive connected with people with whom I would never otherwise speak. Soccer unites people from Europe, Africa, Central America — even the Middle East. its a contentious, sometimes even violent game, but it can also be a source of friendship and self-definition.
Soccer requires a great deal of technique and teamwork to play, but ultimately it is a very simply sport. It doesnt require a lot of equipment or fancy uniforms like football. You can easily play a pickup game with nothing but a ball and two marked goals. I love teaching my non-soccer playing friends and relatives how to enjoy the game, just as much as I enjoy playing on a high level. The next day I might ache, but in the moment of play, there is nothing in the world but me, the ball, and my.