I wear the names of better men when I take the field. Terry, Drogba, Roberto Carlos; they all inspire me to be a better player. I try my hardest, but usually fall short of playing up to their immense standards. Football (soccer) has become more than an obsession over the past 5 years, it has become an addiction. From frantically checking the transfer rumors every morning in July and August to waking up with a hangover at 7am to catch the Chelsea match, to playing 10 hours a week, there’s nothing I won’t do for the beautiful game.
My passion for the game began during the ’94 World Cup. I was caught up in the passion and excitement of the tournament, especially from the USA squad that had given the country its best performance to date, in front of the home crowd. Players like Eric Wynalda and Cobi Jones made me proud of my country’s performance, despite being devastated at losing to Brazil. The following fall I would begin playing in the U-6 league in my hometown. I eventually progressed through U-8 and began to play for the local traveling team. Sadly when the time came to choose between the two footballs, I chose American football.
My love for the game was periodically rekindled throughout my childhood and teenage years, I remember staying up all night to watch matches during the 2002 World Cup and playing countless hours of FIFA. Roberto Carlos became my favorite player as I consistently wondered how so much magic could come from a man so small. I casually followed the English Premier League for two seasons before choosing Chelsea as my team. My real passion would be ignited during the 2006 World Cup. On a Wednesday morning, I watched Didier Drogba fight as hard as a man can despite being overmatched by a superior Argentina squad. That match cemented Drogba’s place as my favorite player and football’s place in my heart.
Over the next few years I would find myself doing everything to gain a deeper knowledge of the game. Thousands of hours were spent watching Youtube videos of past and current legends, playing FIFA and Football Manager to gain a deeper understanding of the game, watching matches on every third party streaming program I could find, and playing as much football as I could. Over those years my knowledge and skill of the game progressed, albeit my knowledge far succeeds my skill.
I developed a liking for Carlos Tevez and his intensity, John Terry and his steadfast leadership, and Juninho for his right footed free kick sorcery. I loved Mourinho for his audacity and tactical excellence (and naming the Barcelona squad) and hated Avram Grant for his perceived ineptitude. I love the grace and skill of Neymar and the brutality of Vinny Jones. I love that Riquelme never sprints and Park Ji-Sung never seems to stop. I love the jeers shouted from a mostly empty Newry City Ground and the din of the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium on a Champions League night. Every match leaves something to be appreciated.
Most of all I love that football is played in every country and is a culturally universal sport. I love the way it brings people together from all different backgrounds to share what they love. I have made friends and met people I would never have otherwise and continue meeting new people through the sport. For the upcoming season I will be writing about Chelsea, the Premier League, the Champions League and anything else that catches my attention on this blog. I hope that you will join me and that you may take some enjoyment from the sport that brings it to millions around the world.