For nearly my whole life, I have put my faith in a game. I believe in a game that has united families, cities and countries. I believe in a game that has the power to start wars and to end them. I believe in a game that taught me how to be a good person. I believe in soccer.
It has been said, “sports don’t build character, they reveal it.” While many people do often reveal their true colors on the sports field, I believe that soccer has built my character. I am the person I am today because of what I’ve taken away from this game. Soccer is not just a game about kicking a ball or scoring goals; it is, by far, the best teacher of life lessons I have ever encountered.
What I love most about soccer is that it’s a player’s game. It is not based around set plays a coach hollers from the sideline or that one star player who commands his or her teammates. There are no timeouts for anyone to lend their final words of wisdom. It’s a game in which you alone must decide what you have to do to best benefit your team. Through soccer I have learned to take advantage of my mistakes as learning experiences. I have learned to base my actions on how they will affect others, and to trust those around me. When I was nine, my soccer coach told me that I wasn’t selfish enough. “I love that you are willing to share the ball and pass to your teammates,” he told me, “but sometimes you have to be a little bit selfish and hold on to it. Sometimes being selfish is the right option for the situation.” I didn’t understand what he meant; I was so used to looking out for others and always passing the ball. It wasn’t until I felt the rush of dribbling the ball up the field for the first time instead of giving it up that I realized he was right. Sometimes when all I do is think about others, I need to take a moment to think about myself. All of these are lessons that I continue to carry through my day-to-day life.
I’m sure I am not alone in the life lessons I have taken away from soccer. Ask the professional player who kicks the ball out of bounds to stop play when he injures an opponent why he didn’t take advantage of the situation. Ask the teammate of the injured player why he threw the ball back to the other team to restart play. Ask the rival tribes in the Ivory Coast why they ended a century of feuding when their country made it to the World Cup for the first time. Surely, they will all tell you what lessons the beautiful game has taught them. They will tell you that they too believe in soccer.
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