Some of the things we write on here are meant to be attempts at journalism, however – every so often – we feel the need to genuinely express ourselves in more personal terms – matters of opinion to be more specific. This is one of those articles.
Recently, I’ve wondered to myself what it means that we relentlessly pursue perfection, day in and day out, session after session, Saturday morning after Saturday morning. Why do we care so much? What interpretation of the human spirit can explain the sheer agony and unbelievably simple joy obtainable from this game we devote our lives to?
Now, arguably, that sounds a bit strong. To be clear, I was raised on the philosophy that there’s three things that matter in life: family, soccer and God – and in that order. So, I don’t want to leave you with the idea that I’m simply an exported version of your beer chugging, barcalounging DirecTV Sunday Ticket subscriber – but simply an impassioned individual – who, while thinking about sex every eight seconds, manages to squeeze in a bit of football for a significant portion of the other fifty-two.
So, back to the point at hand – what the hell is this whole thing about? As I see it, all people on this planet are simply separated by their opinions – opinions towards their passions. Show me the difference between a diehard supporter of Manchester United and a fan grilling his brats outside of Soldier Field. While one may have a seemingly wittier style of support – I guarantee they’re essentially the same person. Even the last point is arguable, simply based on the grounds of culture – what may seem usual and normal to one, can seem fantastically inventive to an outsider.
How can the passion be explained?
This was meant to be the point of this article – to answer “why”. The entire above background dialogue has been my attempt at procrastination while I collectively tried to bring my thoughts together on what this game means to its supporters. But, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s not the same for every individual. Maybe we all have our own motivations for why we chase this high every time we step onto a pitch, argue over who will win the league, over who’s better: Scousers or Gooners (Gooners), but what it all comes down to is finding that singularity that sparked it for us all. Thus, I can’t say what this game means to the world and why – but I can say what it means to me and why.
This obsession started fifteen years ago. While I have memories from before 1995 – what I remember most is when I first got a copy of “Fifa 96” – one of the first games to be on CD-ROM, at the time. The reason I received this gift was because I had attended my very first year of soccer camp. And good lord, did I love it. On the first day, I “met” someone who I’d one day grow to call my coach, my mentor, and now my friend. Outfitted in hand-me-down soccer apparel (from the same wonderful cousins that sent me Fifa) I donned a bright blue jersey with an emblem I couldn’t make out at the age of six – I had no idea what “RFC” stood for. As I wobbled my way out onto the field after a water-break, I suddenly felt a great amount of pressure on my ears and couldn’t help but realize that I was airborne – reaching higher and higher until the Devil’s voice, in a thick Glaswegian dialect questioned, “Arrre you EVER gon’ wear THAT shirrrt again?”
Weeping (and probably wet-panted), I responded, “Nooooooo sir!” as I was dropped, sprinting away, hearing a chuckle that would become less terrifying over the years – but still brings chills to this day.
In the time since that hot summer day in 1996, I’ve broken an arm, bruised a rib and a lung, broken bones in both feet, ruptured my Achilles tendon, split my head and eye open, torn cartilage – and finally – a tendon to squash any dreams of continuing on and playing.
But it’s those rare injuries that are significantly outnumbered by the incalculable number of minutes spent on the pitch, the trophies won, the defeats shared, the moments that stick out in your mind that define what you did – what your life was about when this game dictated everything you did – the sacrifices made, and the memories that were made all along the way. The only time I ever regret coaching and not being able to play any more – is when I think of those moments. Then, the same way that I made memories and defined myself by the game I played – by the passion that I felt – I smile, because I know that coaching is simply the next step in my evolution of the love of this sport that I share with so many of the world.
I’d like to leave you with the opening dialogue from Fifa 06 (my ten year anniversary) said , in the thickest of Scottish accents, “Game after game after game, I realize now what is most important in my life: football. Show me something more thrilling than the perfect volley, tell me you’ve never dreamed the immaculate strike – imparted a moment when the entire nation holds its breath. Tell me that football is not our one common language, when the whole planet stops for 90 minutes to be witness to the one thing we all understand. Yeah, you could tell me I’m wrong. Some may say its just a game, but this is about heroes and tribes – loyalty and devotion. It’s our commitment and our passion, our battle and our belief. This. Is. Our. Faith. Feel the fever of the crowd, hear the roar of the faithful, this the beautiful game, this is your moment…”