Everything I Needed To Know About ‘Players’ I Learned From Actually Playing Soccer


When you look back at the boy from high school, you relate him to a soccer player. He understands what it means to “play.” He was the striker who did back flips after a sweet goal. The player who keeps his shoes untied throughout an entire game and is still somehow the top performer.

Soccer, known as football in many other countries, is a sport in which two teams strive to kick a ball, about the size of a human head, into a goal which is essentially metal poles in the shape of a rectangle with a net attached to the back. Everyone knows this. But there are aspects to the game that only the players know.

The average midfielder in a professional soccer game runs 7 miles, dropping the body’s entire weight with each step, only to touch the ball a few dozen times per game.

Can you imagine chasing after something that you will lose over and over?

Your coach tells the team that it’s impossible to dribble through 3 people, pass the ball. “Weighting the ball” means gauging how much distance is between you and the person you intend to pass to and how much force is needed to execute the pass successfully.

There are tricks around the structure of the game. You can let the ball run across your body, creating a subtle turn, or use the side-line as a defender, or convince the defender you are about to make a massive kick and then simply tap the ball. All of these things work as loopholes and escapes from the overall architecture of the game.

The end result of a game is just a cold, hard number. You either won or you didn’t. You either scored or you didn’t. None of your special moves, passing, teamwork is woven into the final outcome. The amount you sweat, ran and hurt doesn’t matter in the end.

You cannot quantify effort or spirit so the score leaves it out.

The boy you met when you were fifteen didn’t need coaching in evading defense, slipping through yours with ease. He knew how to break you down and build himself up, all the while playing his game. All he had to say was, “What would you do if I kissed you right now?” and proceed to score. He weighted his passes making sure to hit you spot on. You recall him telling you that he expected your boobs to be bigger and sensing his disappointment when you tell him it was because you had lost weight (you left out that he was the reason) and he told you it was impossible for you to have lost that much weight. He also knew his fakes, like when you sat on his lap in the cramped car, parked in the gas-station to wait out a thunderstorm and he wrapped his arms around your waist like a seatbelt and kissed you on the back of the neck. And now the game is over and you are left goalless while his score surpasses the conceivable.

And a part of you misses being played by such a wily player because the rules were never secure and chasing after something, even something that you will lose, is always better than actually having it.