As you can likely tell form my soccer blog I’m a bit of a nut for the sport. I’m not as hard core or intense as some, but it does take up a large chunk of my life. I volunteer for my local team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and I’m up for a weekend of volunteering at a local soccer tournament next weekend. Not to mention the fact I’m looking to give my life up to looking at soccer in another country for the love of the sport, and for the love of others who share my passion. Alright, maybe I should take that back, I am pretty hard core about this sport.
I played soccer growing up, there were games going on pretty much every warm recess back in my elementary school, but gradually I was lead away from soccer into basketball, baseball, and volleyball. My friends stopped playing it too. There wasn’t much soccer going on in my hockey crazed city to begin with, and it seemed to become more distant the older I got. That all changed when I went to my first Whitecaps FC match 5 years ago. I was instantly reunited with that simply complex sport of movement and creativity and fun that I had played so intensely when I was young. I haven’t stopped watching soccer since, and after all the things the Whitecaps have done for me after hiring me on to work for them as a game day media volunteer, it will always be how their love of the game helped me discover what sport can be.
Even with all this fun being had by watching those down on the pitch I kept my love of soccer as one of a spectator. I didn’t play the sport at all, I didn’t even have a soccer ball. That changed today while I was out campaigning for this project. I bought the cheapest ball they had (a Sporteck Electra) at Soccer West on Broadway in Vancouver. My intent was to buy something I could kick about on the sidewalk to and from work. ‘Why?’ is the question most grown ups would ask at this point. ‘For fun,’ would be my reply. It is a traditional size 5 ball with the pentagon sided pieces making up its construction, with a yellow overall colour, and big white circles outlined in black. I never thought I’d enjoy looking at a ball this much. I find its simple patterns very appealing.
I bounced it around for a while walking down Broadway and carried it until I got to my neighbourhood, a quieter residential area. Then I dropped it on the ground and started kicking it, too hard at first as it got away and I ran and caught it and directed it back ahead of me. A bump in the sidewalk rolled it in front of one of the endless parade of joggers you’ll find in this city and he playfully tried to kick it back to me. I turned the corner to head to my house and juggled the ball a little, difficult in jeans with a bag over my shoulder, but still doable for a kick in the air or three.
I found myself to be smiling. I realized why and I hoped beyond anything that outside of all the valid criticisms there are for charitable organizations interfering with peoples way of life by merely showing up and helping, that people never forget how kicking a ball around can make me, a child, or anyone smile. I’m reading a number of critical pieces right now, to be brought up later, that bring up valid points against soccer being used for societal development as it impacts traditional notions of individual achievement and advancing possible neo-liberal visions. We should look at these greater societal impacts, but we must also look at the faces. We must look at the human impact. I for one will not forget smiling on a warm summer day when it was just me, a new ball, and the love for a sport I share with the world.