Tag Archive: football

Soccer at 37 is not daunting in and of itself, but soccer after not playing any organized games in 15 years … well, that’s a bit foreboding.  I feel like I should be on the roster for Olde FC (Fart Club).

My fitness level, as expressed in cleats

A new friend who happens to coach Gabriel’s team invited me to join his company’s 7 vs. 7 team at Silverbacks Park on Mondays.  I’ve missed a game or two, but last night was my first.  All things considered, I survived.  I didn’t do too well.  I’m out of shape still and could really feel it.

Regardless of the outcome (we won 6-4, I believe), I had a blast.  Just being out there again.  Kicking the ball.  Running into open space.  Looking for options as the ball approaches.  These are the things I love when it comes to soccer.  It’s not the technique, not the winning or losing, but rather the love of the sport.  I’ve written about this before, too.

I stayed on the field for about 45 minutes of the hour-long game.  Notice I didn’t say “I was running for 45 minutes.”  But that’s my goal: keep moving when I’m on the pitch, without the magnetic pull of poor fitness holding me back.

It’s akin to what Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said in an article on small-sided games (like the teams Gabriel and I play on now):

“What attracts every player of every level is the pleasure of playing the game….the roots of why they played in the first place. One day, as a kid, you played with your friends, you kicked a ball about and, wow, you enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to play again.”

G as in Grasshopper

And so I, too, can’t wait to play again. I guess that desire has never really faded. It’s just taken 15 years for me to decide to do it.

The little guy a few seasons ago as a Grasshopper

“Do you have a little brother over there?” asked the young coach, walking to retrieve the cones on my end of the soccer field.

To tell the truth, I just came out here for some practice.

“No…to tell the truth, I just came out here for some practice,” I replied glancing more than casually in the direction he had motioned, toward the youth league match taking place on the adjoining field.

The exchange was simple, but sparked thoughts of games gone by, practices where I felt I could run forever, as long as my water cooler awaited me at the end.  At sixteen years of age I made the decision to cease pursuing club-level soccer.  Close to a decade later, with only a handful of scrimmages to fill those years, there is still magic in this simple game.  It can not be explained, but anyone, who has given his or her heart to a sport, any sport, knows exactly how I feel. It’s so much more than a simple love of the game, deeper than the enjoyment of a pastime.  There is a brotherhood that exists here on these fields, on any field, from the pristine pitch of a German Stadium to a dirt street of Venezuela.

During my first year of college, I took refuge in the gym with my well-worn soccer ball, figuring that the cinder block walls would be sufficient teammates.  One evening, I met a fellow soccer player.  He simply said something like, “Here you go,” and indicated that he was ready for a pass.  Unquestioning, I offered a simple, in-step pass, received by a simple, one-touch stop that, like the delivery, spoke of not a few years of training and hard work.  It was in that one interaction that a bond was formed.

The connection is not solely between those of us who have played with and against one another.  It binds us no matter our nationality, our abilities, our age.  It is the passion, the intensity, and the appreciation of this sport that brings us together.  It manifests when you witness a perfectly executed play even without a goal to show for it and you still let the words, “How magnificent!” escape your lips.  More than a game, beyond a sport, you recognize it as an art.

In the present day, my physical condition is not what it was, and my skills have lost the edge that kept at tight reign on the defensive half of more than one premier or classic level team.  The boys nearby show promise, putting their hearts into the game despite the rain puddles and uneven field.  I watch and clap and shout encouraging words to players on both sides.

In *his* footsteps

In my mind’s eye, the coach presents me once more with the question, “Do you have a little brother over there?”

As the game ends and I make my way off the field, I reply aloud, “Yeah, coach.  Twenty-two of ‘em.”