By Dario Camacho – MIAMI, FL (Nov 11, 2011) US Soccer Players — When I was a little kid in Colombia, my father used to take me to a soccer academy. Every Saturday morning I would wake up, and be whisked away so I could fulfill his dream of his son becoming the next Colombian National team goalkeeper. Yep, a parent living through his offspring.
In any case, the only thing I remember clearly was the day I learned my first intangible lesson about soccer. I was in front of goal, and I remember my dad kicked the ball way into the sky. As I remember it, the ball always seems to move slowly through the air, arching my way. I outstretched my arms as if awaiting an incoming sack of potatoes, and instead of doing what a professional future Colombian National Team keeper should do with the ball, it slowly drilled my face.
I don鈥檛 remember the fall, or the crunch of my body hitting the pitch. I remember my dad rushing to me, grabbing my head and inspecting it as if he was checking a melon for soft spots. He then quickly shrugged it off and said, 鈥測ou鈥檒l be fine.鈥?/p>
I remember the taste of blood from my cracked lip. I quickly learned one lesson about soccer: It hurts. It will hurt you.
We always associate pain with feelings, and feelings to things. It鈥檚 the link that makes us define what matters to us. I always remembered how that day made me feel about soccer. How that ball put the hurt on me and how soccer ultimately comes down to the sensation of feeling something. Of course pain isn鈥檛 categorically specified by just playing the sport. Across the globe, it鈥檚 also about experiencing it as a fan.
I was never much of a fan growing up, even though my childhood was nothing but soccer filled experiences as my father tried to instill in me the joy of the sport. I didn鈥檛 get it. Once I arrived in Miami, the full privilege of having four other teams pulled my interest in sports in all directions. By the end of the 鈥?0s, I was sick of all of them.
Life has a funny way of teaching you things. About three years ago I was asked by a couple of friends if I wanted to play soccer with them on a regular basis. Since I was beginning to see the effects of a sedentary life and an expanding waistline, I agreed. I was terrible at first, just trying to remember the basics of the game that I was taught so long ago.
Then it clicked. Suddenly, you understand what makes the game tick, what makes it pang in your heart. I was addicted. I needed an outlet.
It鈥檚 a good thing then that today, if you are a fan of the game, you don鈥檛 necessarily have to have a passion for your local sports team鈥?especially when you don鈥檛 have one at all. The rise of the internet, social networks, and paid subscription services have created multiple options for seeing the game of your choice. It鈥檚 a great time to be a fan. Especially one with no local team.
Even for a country as big as the United States, we're living in a time that national can truly be defined as national. A guy in Oklahoma can have the same respective feelings about a Seattle team that the home fan has when in the stands. People can congregate on a discussion forum as if it was their local pub.
It鈥檚 the soccer version of the world village. It ultimately shrinks that cavernous expanse that sometimes is not filled by the general media. You can disregard the traditional channels and pinpoint the information you want through the secondary ones, and it鈥檚 just as good, if not better.
This is a great time for soccer in America to grow. That growth is aided by technology and availability. How I came to love the sport in America, as flawed as it is, is because I was able to connect easily with it through computers and gadgets.
I started reading and discussing the sport on a daily basis once I got online and visited sites devoted to the game, just like this one. It also helps that watching the game has never been more accessible. Even if you don鈥檛 have traditional channels like cable TV, if you are connected online, you are perfectly fine. Own an Xbox360 and you can catch televised soccer games abroad and domestic, and even watch it on demand. If you want to see a game involving Los Angeles and New York and how one team plays beautiful soccer while the other one disappoints, there is Match Day Live.
If you feel like venting your frustrations, your emotions, and everything else that can fit in 140 characters, just post a tweet. You can also follow others with the same gusto about a team and read their frustrations. Like when someone from Canada steals the soul of a team in Houston. The cursing and damning will make some blush, but it鈥檚 also what the game is about.
It鈥檚 about the feeling and the connections that people from all parts of the country can make. All of these things make it easy to fall in love with a team from another city when you don't have a hometown club. It鈥檚 the 2.0 fan experience. The online soccer age for fans born and raised under the tutelage of YouTube and Netflix.
Yet it all boils down to that feeling of pain, and sometimes joy, when a team that you鈥檝e never seen in person can still move you in a way that only sports can do. We just live in an age and part of the world where it is so easily accessible to do so. It鈥檚 a good thing. I myself would never be able to experience the highs and lows of Real Salt Lake and their Champions League run without the online world we are so tied to these days.
When they lost that game in Utah, I finally understood that I was a fan of a team, a League, and dare I say it a movement. I was a kid with a cracked lip, relearning a lesson.
Dario Camacho made the move from regular commentator as Pesmerga7 to columnist. He writes weekly for US Soccer Players. Follow him on twitter at DarCam7.
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