Why Having a Lifelong Passion for the Game is Important to Me
By Evan Ream, NorCal Premier Soccer Communications Manager
“I suck at soccer,” read the opening lines of Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, before he continues, writing, “When I was a boy, my parents would turn their backs to the field to avoid watching me play. I don’t blame them. The game’s fundamental principles only dawned on me slowly, after I had spent many seasons running in the opposite direction of the ball.
“Despite these traumas,” he continues, “or perhaps because of them, my love of soccer later developed into something quite mad.”
As someone who adopted the game relatively late in life — being 14 years old when I first really started playing puts me well behind pretty much everyone I work with on the developmental curve — that opening few sentences of Foer’s book have always stuck with me.
But I feel like many will overlook what the true important point of Foer’s opening actually is. It’s not important that he sucks — while striving for excellence is obviously one of NorCal Premier Soccer’s goals for its players, what’s truly imperative is that Foer was able to foster his love for the game.
During a lecture to NorCal’s Directors of Coaching at Athletic Bilbao last year, former Bilbao Director of Methodology Gari Fullaondo bluntly explained to us that his son wasn’t very good at soccer.
“But that’s okay,” Fullaondo added, “what’s important is that he loves the game.”
Since joining NorCal in November of 2016, I’ve often thought about that what Fallaondo had to say that particular beautiful afternoon in Bilbao. Because in the end, not everyone in the world — nor everyone playing for a NorCal Premier Soccer club — has the capabilities to make a professional, college, or even high school team. But we can all love the game.
In fact, that’s NorCal’s stated vision as our website masthead reads: “We ignite a lifelong passion for soccer.”
That lifelong passion for soccer has given me so much in my life and really helped shape who I am as a person today.
In high school, soccer taught me about the geography and cultures of far off places — I was one of the only people in my class who could tell you where Ghana, Ecuador, and Slovakia were.
In college, playing for the Southern Oregon University club team allowed me to see the entire state of Oregon and, albeit at a much lower level than the pros, feel what a relegation battle was actually like.
Even now, most of my friends are people who I met through the game, and some of my best friends are people who I’ve met through playing soccer. The highlight of each of my weeks in my coed game in which my friends and I get together, play some mediocre soccer, and then socialize after the match.
It may not look great to the passerby — no one is going to confuse us with Barcelona — but that’s fine. Without any of us having ever played in any of its leagues, NorCal Premier Soccer has already achieved its goal with my team as we all already have a lifelong passion for soccer.
And it’s our job to help ignite that same passion for others.