Why Soccer Is More Than Just A Game
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Why Soccer Is More Than Just A Game

Love, passion and commitment have all defined my life playing soccer.

Why Soccer Is More Than Just A Game

Certain fascinations have a way of capturing our hearts and souls. It could be music, painting or gaming (just to name a few). All of our troubles, even for a moment, seem to just disappear and we can enjoy ourselves to the fullest with that one thing. It's that one thing that can truly make a huge difference in our lives. For me, the one pastime that has really etched itself into my soul is soccer (football), the beautiful game.

It all started when I was six years old, where I was a happy-go-lucky child who was content with life as a couch potato. One day, my parents came back from work and said, “We signed you up for soccer. You can’t spend each and every day going to school and doing nothing.” I definitely have my parents to thank because who knew that very decision they made 15 years ago would forever change my life? Actions that seem so little at the time, can end up having monumental roles throughout the course of our lives. For me, this was one of those moments. When I started playing, however, I had no idea what I was doing. Passing, dribbling, shooting, teamwork, winning and losing— they were all foreign concepts to me. Although it was normal for most six-year-old kids to feel the same way, that uncertainty led to apathy. I would have rather been playing "Super Mario Brothers" on my old Gameboy Advance, or watching the latest episodes of "Spongebob Squarepants" on Nickelodeon.

Eventually, my stubbornness began to give. As I began to play more often, there was just something mystifying, yet fun about playing the beautiful game. Maybe it was being around other kids my age outside of school, or maybe it was feeling useful and appreciated while playing as a defender or goalie. Or maybe, it could have been the frequent ice cream treats my parents would buy me at the local snack stands after every game. I couldn’t place my finger on it (granted, I was only six), but soccer had my attention.

As time went on, my father bought me the latest soccer video games for my computer and Playstation. He even called Dish Network, our satellite cable provider, to unblock the soccer channels. Even though I wouldn't start watching soccer on a daily basis until I was 13, the intentions my father had definitely spoke volumes. However, my frustration with not being as good as other kids my age began to wear me down. I ended up giving up the beautiful game for a year in order to play baseball when I reached the second grade.

With baseball, I was actually pretty good at it. Throughout the North Brunswick little league, I developed quite the reputation for my batting prowess. My teammates and I really enjoyed each others’ company. However, the long periods I had to wait to bat and just the overall duration of each inning, let alone the entire game, really irritated me. Also, some aspects were missing -speed, thrill, intensity, excitement and most importantly, fun. It was at that moment I realized I wanted to return to soccer, and once again, my life would never be the same.

I’m a late bloomer, and it was evident on a plethora of occasions as I erupted into a ferocious 9-year-old forward in recreational soccer, started playing travel/club soccer for North Brunswick when I was 11 and eventually becoming a tenacious forward and midfielder for my local Monroe travel team for my U13 and U14 years. By then, soccer had everything I’ve always wanted: the speed, the thrill, the intensity, the excitement and most importantly, the fun. Conversely, the game still lacked a certain essence, but it’s clearer in hindsight than it was at the age of 13.

That all changed when I tried out and made the Monroe Township Middle School Boys’ Soccer team during the fall of my eighth-grade year. Immediately, I was catapulted into a whole new world of soccer that exceeded the wildest of my imaginations. The culture was incredible, and I was surrounded by players who already played for state and regionally ranked clubs: East Brunswick SC, Jersey Knights, Match Fit Academy, so on and so forth. The constant discussions about tactics, professional soccer teams and playing at a higher level took my young mind by storm. It became clear: I wanted to reach and surpass the level of play my middle school teammates were at. After that fall 2008 season, I committed myself to improving as a player. I contacted multiple teams to try out for, practiced soccer in my house (much to the chagrin of my parents) and registered for a number of camps and clinics for my age and up (after begging my parents). Some U15 team tryouts went well, while others didn’t. Walls were broken in my house, and a lot of money came out of my parents’ wallets. Throughout the beginning of this newfound experience in soccer, what I was searching for became apparent — love. The respect I had for the game turned into admiration, and that admiration, into love.

Outside of playing, I was (and still am) an avid follower of the English Premier League, FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euros and multiple other footballing events. While other people my age would be watching Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, MTV or other programs, I only had eyes for three channels: Fox Soccer, Gol TV/Bein Sports and ESPN. The reason for this is pretty obvious: soccer was broadcasted all day, every day. On more than one occasion, I had trouble falling asleep the night before a live match due to the excitement. Nowadays, I just can’t seem to stray away from Watch ESPN, Fox Soccer 2Go or the Internet because so much is happening in the football world, ranging from weekly matches to in-depth interviews, club news, transfers, etc. Once more, it became apparent that the respect I had for the game turned into admiration, and that admiration, into love.

I played for a number of clubs such as Manalapan SC, Match Fit and CNJSB during my U15 and U16 seasons. While I had my ups and downs (especially at the U16 level), I committed myself to enhancing my prowess as a player. I adapted to higher levels of play by changing my own style in order to succeed. Eventually, it would be the improved, more mature player I turned into that would try out for and make the U17B YMS Renegades at the age of 17, and it would be one of the three clubs to have captured my heart. And rest assured, I was in it for the long haul — I would not stray away from any other club for the remainder of my youth career. I stuck around for my U18 season at YMS and because of my coaches and managers' dedication and commitment, I was able to ascend into the industrious player that my six-year-old self would have never even dreamed about. Ultimately, I was able to commit to Rosemont College for academics and soccer in 2013. It’s all thanks to YMS, the amount of training I underwent, William Nord for taking the time to recruit me and sheer determination on my part.

Throughout this journey, I’ve traveled all over the country for the beautiful game. Whether it was league games, one-day tournaments, college showcases and college I.D. camps and clinics, the weekends would always be my favorite time of the week simply for these occasions. From the Tampa Bay Sun Bowl to my very first ID camp at Shenandoah University, to the Red Devils territory of Manchester in the UK to scrimmage local Men’s teams, my love and hunger for the beautiful game knew no bounds. Even though I struggled for goals and minutes during my high school career, I knew I was nowhere near ready to hang up my cleats. I loved soccer too much to let my career end on a sour note, let alone at all. I would not let myself go to college without receiving a quality education and playing NCAA soccer, and that was a goal I had since I was 16. Soon after my last season of high school soccer, I subjected myself to productive, yet rigorous training that I still follow to this day. With this course of action, I’ve increased my size, strength and stamina in addition to my technical ability. Playing with competitive open, U20 and U23 men’s teams became my only trusted options once I graduated from high school. The weight room, athletic training room and soccer field would end up being my surrogate homes. Through the blood, sweat and tears, I’ve evolved into both a player and man my teammates, coaches, supporters (all current and former alike) and most importantly, myself, would be proud of. Being an esteemed member of both Men’s Soccer and the overall community at Rosemont College is proof of that evolution, and I could not be more fulfilled with a rewarding experience.

By now, it’s pretty obvious that I have played a lot of soccer. Everyone else, especially in high school, would be out hanging out with friends, partying, so on and forth. While they chose these routes, I chose to play soccer. It wasn’t because I thought I was better than everyone else - I certainly did not believe that. I simply played soccer because I loved it (and still do) with a burning passion. It was my goal to train and go as far as I possibly could in my footballing career. Once again, what started off as respect I had for the game turned into admiration, and that admiration, into love. I am always thinking about the next practice, game or chance to just go to the local fields and just shoot around. My social life thrived off of playing the beautiful game, as I have come across a multitude of skill levels, people, cultures and much more from this sport. My friends were my teammates, and my best life experiences came from playing soccer. My coaches were not only there for growth and development in soccer - they were my mentors outside the classroom. I’m not the shy and timid person I was when I was younger as the beautiful game shaped my personality. The love I have for this game cannot be measured. Throughout the course of my career, trophies were won, leagues were clinched, goals were scored, assists were made, championships were lost, chances were squandered, tears were shed and bones were broken. Regardless of the good and the bad, happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, determination, tenacity and fun that simply come with the game, I will always love the sport. A good friend of mine recently told me to, “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” That’s not hard because soccer is the one and only pastime that does just that.

Bill Shankly, one of Liverpool FC's most iconic managers, once said, "Football is not a matter of life and death...it's more than that." I hold this quote to be true — it’s who I am, it’s the embodiment of my soul and it’s in my blood. Through the good, bad and ugly, my fire for the game burns brightly all the same. I'm not a professional, All-American or up-and-coming prodigy. I'm simply a man who loves a sport. Regardless, one thing remains certain: soccer will always be more than just a game to me.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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