Soccer has changed me.
I know it’s bordering on cliche to say something like that. Oh, this thing changed me. Changed my life. Changed how I view the world and its other inhabitants. Changed inherently the way I live my life.
But here I am, getting in cars with strangers, sometimes in cities with which I am unfamiliar, sometimes in countries of which I am not a citizen. I go places I never expected to go, with people I didn’t know just a short time ago, and I do things I didn’t think I could.
Because soccer changed me and it changed my world.
And I’m not alone.
So many of us have these stories. We came to this place, to be among these people, our soccer family, when something was missing from our lives. We found home, family, acceptance of our quirks, and a welcome like we’d not ever experienced before.
With this one shared interest, we gain an entire world.
We get in cars with strangers, we break bread with them, we travel across the country with them. And we are better for it.
I don’t remember what my life was before, but I remember my world being so much smaller. A weekend trip to Vancouver, or Houston, or Columbus, would have had me in a months-long planning frenzy. Now, those trips are spontaneous (or nearly so) and often result in incredible, though unanticipated experiences: a Meditteranean buffet in Texas, a latenight drive through the university district in Vancouver, a mad dash from Detroit to Columbus in December.
You people are full of magic. I’m so glad I’m along for the ride.