I’m a fairly geeky/nerdy person. I like most of the usual geeky things, like science fiction and fantasy, and I even enjoy maths. When I was growing up, it was maybe a little too much. Not that there’s anything wrong with being nerdy (I’m very proud of it), but more that I like to think of myself as a balanced person. I love TV and books, I love spending most of my time alone but feel happiest with friends, I love art and science. Etcetera, etcetera.
So as a kid I was, to my eyes, defined by that nerdiness. Again, nothing wrong with it, but I felt like something was missing from my life. Then in my mid-teens, I moved back from Florida to Bogotá. It was senior year, and I joined a class that had been known each other for years, and was very close. By the end of the year I’d made some friends, but for most of the year itself, I spent most of my time alone.
It wasn’t too bad. Like I said before, I enjoy being by myself. Additionally, all that me time gave me the chance to try new things. I started practising on the guitar that had been gathering dust for a year, and eventually got good enough to recognisably play a few songs. I read so many great books, and I also discovered football.
Football is a Big Deal.
Most of my readers are from the US so you probably don’t realise how big of a deal it is everywhere else in the world. South America and Western Europe particularly, though I think most countries in Africa and the rest of Europe love it just as much. Gangs in the capital city of Colombia are mostly defined by whether they’re Santa Fe or Millonarios fans. In PE the only sport anyone wants to play is footie. You’d be hard pressed to find a park in the afternoon that isn’t occupied by kids playing a match.
Football is inescapable. It can be a huge way for parents to connect with their kids, a love passed from one generation to the other. Both supporting a team and playing at the park together. A football is probably the single most popular Christmas/birthday gift for younger children (particularly boys).
Even if you don’t follow the sport, it’s still going to affect you. You feel the need to ‘choose a team’ because everyone else has one. You can’t just be completely ignorant to football, and definitely not when the national team is concerned.
I remember being outside during one of Colombia’s World Cup games a few years ago. The whole city was empty. There wasn’t a single person walking outside, you couldn’t even spot a single car anywhere. No one did anything at work during the matches. In fact, my boss had me set up a projector in the cafeteria so the whole office could watch the games together.
Like I said, football is a Big Deal.
You can imagine, then, the impression it made on me when I moved here. On a World Cup year, no less. We might not have qualified for it, but my family still met all summer to watch games together.
I’d never cared much about sports of any kind, but it was hard not to let some of everyone else’s excitement rub off on me. At school everyone was collecting and trading stickers to fill a Panini album. The main topic of conversation every day was the result from the day before.
Football, football, football.
Long story short, I fell in love with football. I started waking early every Saturday and Sunday to watch Premier League games, and occasionally a La Liga game.
Then I started playing it, and discovered a whole new world of fun. The teamwork, and speed, and skill of it… it’s fantastic. Even being a bit rubbish it’s been great. I’d play a game at a local park at least once a week, and I’d never miss the daily game during lunch at school.
Sport became a huge part of my life. It became harder once I finished high school, but then I joined the volleyball team in college. I might not love it as much as football, but playing it was nearly as enjoyable. Particularly for me with my height. Blocks and spikes are always fun. A few classmates and I joined a football tournament and won that too (with me as goalkeeper, of course).
Then I finished college about two years ago. Since then things have been… not bad, definitely, but not the same. I might follow football with as much passion as always, but not being able to practise any sport has left a big hole in my life.
I start biking a little under a year ago, and as nice as that’s been, I still miss regular sports. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved going for my weekly bike rides, but it’s not the same. There’s something deeply satisfying about pushing your body in more ways, and playing together and against other people.
I was missing that in my life… until today.
Earlier in the week, my gender therapist sent me an email, asking if I wanted to join some other women she’s worked with who were interested in weekly football games. I couldn’t say YES quickly enough. Today was our first game, and it was so much fun. Everything about it was wonderful, even including the warming up. I’d missed the oddly enjoyable pain from stretching my body beyond its usual limits. The game itself was fantastic. I was too out of shape to keep up a good pace all game, but I did all right. I scored two goals, one of them deceptively good.
I picked up the ball in defence, bounced it above one of the other women, poked it past another, then toed it under the goalkeeper for a goal as she rushed out to block my shot..
I’m so tired I feel like I’ll faint unless I fix myself lunch as soon as possible, but I also feel happier than I have in a while. My life has steadily been getting better this past year, but there’s still been something missing. Now… I can’t think of anything more I could want from life at the moment 🙂