I’m excited to be a new member of The Mane Land. Allow me to introduce myself with a few words about my soccer
I have my mom to thank for starting me on my soccer journey. Had she known what she was getting into when she signed me up for a soccer clinic when I was four years old, she might have reconsidered. My love of the game started with the easy joy of chasing a ball with friends and grew into something that would become a constant in my life.
My youth soccer experiences are similar to most players who grew up playing in the United States. My family logged miles traveling to soccer tournaments all over the east coast, spending many holidays in hotel lobbies or camped out at soccer fields waiting between games. I knew soccer as a youth sport in a country without a soccer culture or a soccer conversation.
Soccer changed for me in 1998. Until the ’98 World Cup in France, as far as I knew, soccer had no fans, no great players, and no great goals. I saw for the first time how much the game meant to the rest of the world and I decided that that was what I wanted. I wanted to see soccer played like that live. I wanted to play soccer like I watched it in ’98.
While my playing career didn’t take me as far as I had envisioned as a young soccer player dreaming of playing overseas, I always loved the way soccer connected me to people and places. In my modest travels to Europe and South America, I played pick-up in the streets and parks with friends and acquaintances. We connected through the global language of soccer. Not to mention, the atmosphere of a stadium full of supporters in one voice — enough to give you chills. I remember thinking how I could never experience this in the U.S.
But it has happened. I never thought soccer would gain so much ground in this country, let alone so soon. Thousands of fans turning out for a domestic game in the U.S.? Get out!
The U.S. is in the midst of developing a soccer identity, as well as carving out a place for itself in American sports conversations. I am grateful to The Mane Land for letting me join the team, but, also, for allowing me to play a small part in soccer’s growth in our own backyard.