World, I must confess that I am in love. Not just a silly schoolgirl crush, either. Topsy-turvy, head-over-heels, inside-out love. With soccer. In fact, soccer and I have had an ongoing relationship for almost 27 years now (not counting those dark years when I had no team, and no way to watch my beloved sport on TV, but we won’t discuss that sad time).
Yes, I have always been kind of a sports nut, since childhood. I have played on baseball, basketball, track, swim, and, of course, soccer teams. I was (and remain) a 49ers fan, an A’s fan, a Giants fan, and a Lakers fan. I have followed tennis almost religiously since Venus and Serena came on the scene, and am a die-hard fan of Nadal and Federer. But soccer still tops them all, in my opinion. As soon as the internet made it possible, I began to follow the world of football (the “real” name for the sport). I became an instant fan of the English Premiere League, especially Manchester United, and occasionally Chelsea. Eventually, Barcelona from La Liga España and the Seattle Sounders from MLS also joined my list of favorites. Eventually, my cable provider made it possible to actually watch regular games on TV, which really brought the sport to life in a way that radio programs and internet commentaries could not. I was hooked, addicted, obsessed with The Beautiful Game.
It was only natural that my children would play soccer, whether they liked it or not. Fortunately, my oldest son did like it, and has played the sport every year since the age of 5. This year, he plans to try out for his high school Junior Varsity team. And if he doesn’t make it – well, it’s still been a fun ride. My 11-yo daughter, who recently retired from a high level of competitive gymnastics, is planning to play soccer for the first time ever this season. My youngest son, unfortunately, has sworn off soccer forever after one lousy season. No matter how hard I try, I can’t convince him that soccer — or any sport, for that matter — is worth his time and effort. (Yes, the competitive tiger mom inside of me is banging her head against the wall in frustration).
Still, even though I play soccer, and most of my children play soccer, and I watch it on TV and listen to it on the radio and follow it on the internet, I simply cannot get enough of my favorite sport. I have long dreamt of being at a live, professional soccer match, right in the middle of the excitement, cheering on my teams along with crowds of supporters. And yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had that opportunity. No, it was not Manchester United or Barcelona, or even the Seattle Sounders. But I did get to see Norwich City from the English Premiere League take on the Dorados from Mexico, and the MLS San Jose Earthquakes reserve team play against a team of local all-stars. Not only were these matches incredibly fun to watch in person, but my daughter and I got to be present as our city’s new USL professional soccer team was unveiled — the Sacramento Republic FC. I practically danced home after such an amazing date with my beloved sport, dizzy with excitement, and ready to hop aboard the Sac Republic bandwagon and support our new team, from the minor leagues, all the way to MLS.
My biggest fantasy is that one day, I will get to travel to see the World Cup in person. That is probably the ultimate fantasy of every person who is in love with soccer. (Yes– you see, my favorite sport has many lovers). Sadly, I will probably be stuck at home, parked in front of the television for Brazil in 2014. But there is always Russia. Or maybe Qatar. One can dream.