Why Soccer is More Than a Sport to Me
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My eight-year-old son is immersed in a game on the iPad. We’re flying from the Netherlands to London Heathrow where my dad will pick us up. The three of us have tickets to a Premier League match this weekend. It’s not just any old soccer match.
Thousands of fans fill the stadium in Vicarage Road on this particular Saturday, as they do every other week. For them, it’s just another home game, but for us, this is a special soccer match. It’s a special event for my Dutch son because it’s his first time at Vicarage Road; it’s history in the making.
When match day arrives, my son proudly pulls on his bright yellow Watford shirt with his name emblazoned across the back. He wraps a red, yellow, and black striped scarf around his neck, despite the summer temperature.
Due to traffic, despite leaving early to allow for hold-ups, we arrive late. We miss most of the first half. And a Watford goal. But at least we are there.
I look around us at the sea of yellow, red, and black. The scene is a familiar one to me; English soccer culture accompanied me through my childhood and up to my twenties.
Sitting here I feel at home, despite not having been back since 2014 when I took my eldest to Watford’s home ground for the first time. This has become a tradition, something I do with my sons. I hope to make this same journey with my youngest next season.
Being here is not just about watching a soccer match. I’m passing a little part of my childhood down to each of my sons.
Week after week my parents and I visited Vicarage Road to watch the Hornets play. We watched through the good and the bad. The ups and the downs. We were a part of something, something bigger than our little family.
Then my family went our different ways. My parents divorced and both moved away. My brother found love in the United States. I continued to renew my season ticket for a few more seasons before I headed to the Netherlands.
As I sit next to my son on the terraces so many memories flood back; matches in the warm sunshine on a Saturday afternoon, on bitter winter Tuesday evenings wrapped up in winter woollies and my Watford scarf. Happy days. As I reflect I know that my dad and I are making childhood memories for my sons – ones they will never forget either.
I watch as my sons smile as they spot Harry the Hornet, the club’s mascot. They cheer as the referee blows for full time. They applaud the players reveling in victory. We leave the ground and shuffle our way with the crowd back to the car, just as I did with my family decades before.
My eleven-year-old self could never have imagined that one day I would return and bring each of my three Dutch sons with me. Magical moments.
Soccer. It’s not just a game.
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December 29, 2018 at 02:05PM