On Saturday I watched the USA-Ghana game along with 5% of America (incredibly poor showing, really). When Benny Feilhaber was subbed in at halftime and they popped up his vital stats, I noticed that he was 25, 5’9”, and born in Brazil.
Weird, I thought. I used to play on Beachside with a short Brazilian kid named Benny. And he was always the best kid on the field, by far.
I got home after the incredibly disappointing and mostly poorly-played loss, googled my old club name, and discovered the Alumni Page. I scrolled down to my team’s year and sure enough, Benny was on the list. I looked for the rest of the guys I used to play with. Zack, always the second best on the field, went on to play at Princeton. A couple guys now play professionally. I haven’t played at a high level since age 12. ”A high level” and “age 12” might sound ridiculous, but trust me, we were good.
I quit competitive soccer after my year with Beachside. It wasn’t the sport. I loved and still love soccer. It wasn’t quite the club either. The club was great. We didn’t lose a single game in the fall, winter, or spring. We consistently won games 8-0 and 10-0. The problem was that I split time at keeper and was never allowed to play another position. Winning games by 8 or 10 or 12 goals is a blast when you’re a midfielder or a striker. When you’re a keeper, however, and the other team’s sole shot on goal is a dribbler from 20 yards that anyone in the world except Robert Green could save, and that shot might not even be in the half that you play, well…that’s boring as shit, especially for a 12 year old, and I don’t blame 12 year old me for not wanting to play anymore.
I’ve often wondered how my life would be different had I not quit. Seeing a former teammate play on the biggest stage in the world while I shuffle papers at a desk is a little depressing. On the bright side, I can now tell people that, if I hadn’t quit soccer when I was 12, I might have played in the World Cup.