Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Search for the Perfect Game of Pick-Up Soccer

Graham Fox is a freelance writer from Kansas. He listened to Crystal Castles-Crystal Castles while writing this. Hit him up at grahamfox@gmail.com

When you move to a new place, all the items in life you expect are there, but in a different order. The Taco Bell across the street moves across town. The liquor stores close at 9pm instead of 11pm. Worst of all, you don’t know where to find games of pick-up soccer.

At Kansas State, the old football stadium was the place to find a game. Almost year round you could find a game in the evening on flat field turf set in a beautiful stadium. Because the games were held on a university campus there were people of all backgrounds, ages, and races.

The games would sprawl between six and thirty people and whose play varied wildly. You could find a carpenter from Russia. Old professors. Japanese foreign exchange students. Students from India without shoes. A couple Hispanic guys. I grew used to undisciplined games in which the ball mostly moved along the ground. From the back to the front, quick passes would quickly turn into stupid, greedy runs.

After three years of soccer that over time left me feeling unemotional, the quest for a job that paid better than a language arts teacher meant I had to move to Emporia, KS of all places.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto Leads the Way…

When I watch Scheletto play it’s obvious he is a master at work. Schelotto plays how I imagined Beckman would play when he came to United States. I imagined Beckman hitting perfectly weighted balls that moved the fast forward past the onrushing defender. I knew his skill on the ball was great; at least that’s what all the commercials and videos I saw on Youtube said. That, and he was brought to a deep dark place when he was given a red card.

Beckman has been a letdown. His crosses are ok, better than “Claudio ‘I’m a huge waste of money’ Lopez,” but they are not the magical balls of glory I was told to expect. Beckman’s stats read average. Five goals and eight assists. Hardly what I would expect from someone who survived “deef freets.”

Schelotto shows how a leader and creator should play. His guile and craft are on display with every movement on and off the ball. His 18 assists and six goals prove he is the prefect team player and a true soccer visionary. His temperament is calm yet fierce. I have a respect from him I can’t find for Beckman. I can’t imagine Schelotto pretending to drop kick a ball into an opposing players face.

I feel a joy watching Schelotto that I can’t find watching Beckman. Schelotto’s perfect passes and crosses that continually result in assists and penalty kicks make me want to be a better player of the game. The all time assist record is within his grasp with seven games left.

…And Shows Me the Way

I finally found what I was looking for in Emporia. After riding my bike to dead ends, empty parks, and old soccer fields I found the perfect game. In the back of a large park on slanting ground with long sticks stuck in the ground there was a group of men from El Salvador and Mexico who played regularly. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know Spanish. On the field we all speak the same language.

The play is completely different from the messy pick-up games in Manhattan. Passes and greedy runs have been replaced with long diagonal crosses and quick intelligent passes. I found the perfect place to emulate my favorite MLS player, Schelotto.

You too, go forth. Find the field with people who look different than you but love the same thing. Enjoy the soccer high and emulate your favorite MLS player.

If you’re lucky, after the game you’ll find yourself drinking beers and laughing with people from around the world.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

cheers to crystal castles and cheers to finding the beautiful game wherever it may find you! well done.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous anotherbodymurdered said...

who is Beckman?

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that Schelotto is fun to watch and has been great for Columbus but if you're going to dump on Beckham, at least try to come within several letters of the correct spelling of his name.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Have you never read Du Nord before? He's ALWAYS referred to with a misspelled name, usually Beckman.

Deef Freets. I love it.

3:45 PM  
Blogger brucio said...

hey graham
spell the guys name anyway you want

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Neal said...

nice writing ... that was an enjoyable read, and gets to the point of the beautiful game ... peace and futbol.

9:21 PM  

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