It is cliché, that statement we were told as kids by people who were older than us. And our responses: “I’ll never try it!” and “Why would I give that a try?” or “But I know I don’t like it!”
Growing up, I knew I would hate mushrooms because they looked slimy, coffee would be the worst thing I had ever tasted, and guacamole was a weird green glob that I did not understand how people could enjoy. “Just try it,” my siblings or mother would remark, whenever I denied something I did not like. “You’ll never know unless you try it.”
Blah. Trying new things was overrated. I knew what I liked, and if something was foreign to me, I did not like it. That’s how kids are. I can think of many other things that would have never been on my “try this” list (of course, I didn’t even have such a list), and playing soccer was one item. For my child self, soccer was pointless, boring, and not worth my time. Obviously, I never tried playing it.
The ball dances around the defender. The midfielder to the forward, the forward in-between three other players, and the ball rushing towards the goalkeeper, bouncing off the keeper’s fingertips, hitting the goal post, and finding its way in.
“GOAALLLL!” shouts the TV announcer; the crowd in the background breaking out into chant.
There have been 5 World Cup tournaments to occur during my lifetime, but I only just became interested in soccer, or association football as the rest of the world knows it. Being raised in California, I grew up around soccer, and my peers would assume I played soccer; however, they would be met with a sour face and a lecture on how baseball is the best sport. In the recent months of June and July, though, I watched World Cup highlights before I watched those of my beloved Oakland A’s, and I have played more soccer than I ever played baseball during any two-month period. What made the World Cup interesting is that I saw how it brought out the ultimate fan in people who are even just casual sports fans. Why I had never been interested in this sporting event, or soccer as a whole, has greatly puzzled me.
Every week since the World Cup had begun, and since my friends encouraged me to play 2-versus-2, I have played soccer, sometimes playing each evening during the entire week. I suppose you could say I had “World Cup fever,” and I have learned more about soccer this summer than I had ever known. There is a new obsession in my life.
If only I enjoyed soccer when I was younger, and if only I played the sport in youth leagues. I wish I did try new things and moved past my stone-wall feelings. I wish I had eaten mushrooms before my senior year in high school and I wish I enjoyed guacamole earlier because it easily replaced salsa as my choice for dips (coffee comes with adulthood, I am certain.) If I allowed myself to play a game of soccer with my elementary schoolmates, I probably would have had years of passionate, overjoyed experiences, and I would have added another significance to my identity. I am still new to this sport, but one day in the future I will be a screaming fan in a sea of chanting colors, my kids next to me, wishing they were the ones on that field.
What I know now: Be open to what you dislike. Embrace the unexpected. Soccer is awesome.