When I was seven years old, Iran qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup; I remember the excitement on the faces of the players, the fans, and my family. More countries try to qualify for the World Cup than number of members in the United Nations. My grandfather grew up a poverty stricken boy in the city of Khoi, Iran. His father died when he was eight years old. Throughout his childhood, he escaped the harshness of reality by playing soccer, which he refuses to call it anything but football. He played in a professional league when he was fifteen.
When he reached seventeen, he moved to the United Sates of America with his older brother. He had two jobs and became fluent in English in six months. There was no time for football. In less than a year my grandfather was attending Kansas University in hopes of becoming a doctor. He met his future wife there. During World War Two he served his new country as an army surgeon. For most of my life I have played soccer. My grandfather has strongly encouraged me to do what he was once most passionate about. I can listen to him go on about stories from his childhood career for hours. Most weekends I watch at least one soccer match with him. Since retiring from being a doctor he has been able to reconnect with the sport that he loves so much.
To my grandfather soccer is not a sport, but an idea. He believes in a beautiful game that can only be achieved through heart, honor, and skill. He believes the player becomes a better person after ninety minutes on a pitch. He believes that a game can teach many things. When a group of eleven men steps on the pitch nothing else matters. No one cares about their past, their race, or their religion. Iran has often been looked down upon in current times. My grandfather is their harshest critic. Soccer allows a person or nation to express oneself. Besides for his family some of my grandfather’s most cherished memories are watching Pele play, attending a German game with 95,000 other people, and watching the FIFA World Cup with his grandson. I believe in an escape through a beautiful game.
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