Soccer, or as known pretty much everywhere else in the world, Football, is probably one of the most universal sports. It is also, sadly, a sport I never really got into playing much. My soccer career started and ended at the age of four while attending a weeklong soccer day camp. A mere two days in, I came home crying about how I was tired of wearing those stupid shin guards and the whole sport was just stupid. Soon after that, my mom signed me up for Tennis and Basketball promising, “All you have to wear is shorts and a t-shirt.”
If you’re still not convinced that soccer is NOT my thing, let me try to convince you one more time. I am a very clumsy person (thanks, mom)., especially when it comes to my feet. I can play the clarinet, dribble a basketball pretty well, type decently fast, but if it comes to having control over my feet, I’m at a loss. I can run and walk while staying upright (for the most part).
Now that you’re thoroughly convinced of my lack of soccer ability, I’ll continue. Despite having a very strong dislike of soccer as a four-year-old, those negative feelings
dissipated over the years. I grew to see soccer as a fun sport to play when people had zero expectations of me; however, I was always slightly intimidated because unlike most kids, I never had those couple years of soccer when I was younger.
This past week, the kids of the family with whom I’m staying came out for their Fall break. They grew up in our little village, so all of the local kids were thrilled to have them back. One day, when I got back from a walk, some of the kids were playing soccer with the family’s two boys. I stood around and watched for a while until finally, I saw everybody stop playing, look at me, talk in Baka, and then look at me again, expectantly. Eventually, someone translated and let me know that they wanted me to play. All those nerves and anxieties that I had about soccer came rushing back up to the surface. Because everyone was waiting for a response, I shrugged, smiled, kicked off my shoes, and jumped into the game.
It was intimidating for sure, especially because, since I had a decent amount of height on everyone, they kept on passing me the ball. I was okay at getting in people’s way, so I tried to stick to the defensive side. In the end, though, it was an absolute blast and I continued to go out almost every day for the rest of the week despite the bug bites, bruises, and cuts that I accumulated all over my body.
I think I enjoyed it so much because sports are a way of communicating that requires absolutely no verbal skills. When you’re in the game you’re all feeling the same emotions. You score? Everyone is happy and you can celebrate together through hugs or shouts or high fives. You miss a pass? You’re frustrated, and the rest of your team is probably frustrated with you as well. And once you play once, you’re in. If they see you come out of the house the next afternoon while they’re all on the field, they squeal with excitement because that must mean you’re playing.
Out on the makeshift soccer field was probably the closest I have felt to the Baka yet. Even with two months to go, I knew these will be some of the memories I am going to hold close for a long, long time.