In keeping with our promise of more coverage of the upcoming World Cup, Ronan and I thought it would be fun to invite everyone to share stories from the mish about soccer.
My home town was small enough that our high school didn’t participate in all sports, with
soccer football being the most notable omission. However, when I was a junior in high school, plans announced to field a competitive high school team in a few years, and we started a community league and a club team to develop players. Although I wouldn’t be around to play on the official school team, I had always enjoyed playing soccer football and was eager to join the teams. Though I was certainly no Pelé, I had a decent enough kick and reasonable reflexes and found that I was fairly competent relative to my peers.
About a year after playing my last game in my community league, I was shivering from a chilly breeze in Savonlinna, Finland. I was a greenie missionary, and my companion and I had been invited by the young men from the branch (all 3 of them!) to come play
soccer football at the local pitch with some guys from their school. I stared around the field, wondering how on earth anyone could call this hard, grassless dirt a “ soccer football field” and immediately assumed, in true American fashion, that I was clearly going to be playing with novices who likely didn’t even understand the sport, and certainly wouldn’t be able to compete with me.
About 15 minutes later, I realized what everyone else in the world knew–Yanks suck at
soccer football. These goofy, lurpy young Finns, who couldn’t catch a frisbee or throw a spiral to save their life, worked my companion and I into the ground with footspeed, finesse, and technique I had never seen before. The game only last an hour or so, and I don’t recall really ever getting a foot on the ball, much less advancing it past midfield or doing anything else meaningful. As my companion and I were walking home, I continued to be amazed–this was not Germany, Italy, or Holland. Finland has virtually no international soccer football reputation. And yet, a group of young boys played pickup soccer football at a level that my high school teams would never have been able to compete with after two years of practice.
Naturally, in true American fashion, I subsequently refused to play
soccer football for the rest of my mission, and instead made the Finns play something I was better at–basketball.
So, there is my (only) mission
soccer football story. Let’s hear yours.