Friday, April 18, 2008

A Great Pastime

I like most sports but I am really passionate about soccer. I really enjoy watching live matches on TV on weekends. But the experience of being actively playing is what I find mostly beneficial. One reason that makes me so fond of soccer is the fact that it helps me to stay in shape besides giving me the opportunity to interact with other people. I usually play soccer with a group of enthusiasts every Sunday morning at a nearby field during the spring and summer. In the fall and winter I play inside. Although, we are all from Brazil, soccer is mainly the factor that brings us all together. The habit of playing the sport continuously over the years, has kept me highly motivated. It feels very odd when for any reason I have to skip my practice. It does affect my mood. I realize the sport plays an import part in my life.

How this passion for soccer started and what did drive me to be so motivated is not so hard to comprehend. I basically grew up in an environment where soccer was the favorite pastime of a large portion of the male population. It was almost impossible not to be influenced by it. I watched it on TV, played at school and with other kids in my neighborhood. The truth is; the majority of us Brazilians do embrace the sport with enthusiasm. To highlight such passion I recollect an unforgettable experience I had while visiting Brazil during the 1994 World Cup tournament which ironically took place in the USA. At the time, I saw the Brazilian national team end up making it to the finals and become the champions playing against Italy. How sweet! I was watching that match on a large screen at a bar in the outskirts of Sao Paulo city with my cousin Jo, his wife Paula and a few friends. The place was crowded. Some were customers but the majority of us were there mainly to watch the game. I was thrilled just like anyone else. The adrenaline level was very high as the game approached the end of second half. The match ended up tied and Brazil won during the penalty kicks. Victory came at last. Once the game was over we went insane. We rushed out and hopped into my cousin’s car. Then, we headed downtown with the sole purpose of joining other people to celebrate the event. There was a wave of cars coming from all directions. All of a sudden there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. All were sharing the same sentiment. Some were waving our national flags, singing, laughing and screaming in a manifestation of pure happiness. The streets quickly got clogged with cars and pedestrians and despite the fact that it was a friendly demonstration; it was quite hard a task for the police force to be in control of the situation. I was amazed with the whole thing as if I had not seen it before.

A few days later I returned to the USA but could not help thinking about all the excitement I had during the previous weeks. I almost forgot what it was like in Brazil during the World Cup tournament. On my flight back home I started browsing one of those courtesy magazines it is offered in the plane. Almost by chance I saw an article on soccer history and started to read out of curiosity. I was intrigued to find out that in ancient times a close version of soccer was played by the Egyptians and it also attracted masses of enthusiast people to the stadiums. It made me think that this passion for sports goes back a long way. It is probably as old as mankind itself. I learned also that it was not until the early nineteenth century that a game played with feet and hands started becoming popular in England. Eventually, it branched out into two different sports: soccer and rugby. Rules were then introduced and both became regulated sports as we know today. Soccer is regulated by an organization called International Federation of Association Football, most commonly known as FIFA, and it is widely played by people all over the world. Every four year, I have opportunity to watch a live broadcast of the World Cup tournament and so does millions of soccer fans around the world.

Ever since I moved to the USA, I have always had the opportunity to play the sport with other soccer fans. Most of them are either from Boston or Worcester area. Lately I have been practicing at a place called Friendly House every Sunday morning from 8:00am to 12:00pm. The indoor style I play is called “futsal” which means “hall football in Portuguese. The ball we use is smaller and it does not bounce as much as the one it is used in the field. What I particularly like about the indoor soccer is that it is usually challenging. I play in a relatively small space compared to a field. Because of the reduced space, I need to use quick and more precise movements in order to receive and pass the ball more efficiently. Such quick movements make me work out more intensely. I find it essential to control my breathing in order to reduce the stress and gain better control of myself. The more control I have higher the odds of helping my team to win the game.

Victory does give me a level of satisfaction. But I have learned to appreciate the sport so much that, it just transcends the winning and losing perception. When I am watching a professional match, I like to observe closely: individual talent, creativity and the strategy used by each team. It is fun to see how it all comes together when every player is tuned in the game. When I am out there playing I put my heart into it. All my worries are put aside and I concentrate only on that activity. I feel strong; my self-esteem is high and I am very stimulated. Soccer is also a great way for me to socialize. It helps me stay in shape as I push myself to the limit continuously. Adding it all up this is just something I recognize as a rewarding experience.

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