"Can We Join You Guys?"

An Essay on Breaking Barriers Within US Soccer

Soccer, the most beautiful sport in the world, has gained an outstanding popularity here in the US over the last decade. It's also one of the simplest, yet, most complex sports known to athletes. It only consists of a ball, a goal, and the willpower to improve. Over the past few weeks, I've been hearing the statement, "Soccer is a rich, white kid sport." Me being an African-American who enjoys playing soccer, can both, support and combat this statement.

Growing up in the Midwest, watching soccer was never a popular activity. As a child, I always wanted to play soccer because I used my feet very well, and it wasn't the typical for an African-American, especially, in the Midwest. I was always told that, "Only Mexicans played soccer," or referred to as "soft" or "trying to be white" which was never the case. I was just tired of being pushed towards football and basketball. I stopped chasing the idea of playing soccer completely until high school. I started by playing FIFA 13 and fell in love with Bayern Munich. Soon after, I started noticing other soccer fans and the clubs they represent with their merchandise. I eventually started playing for my high school team, which was about 17 of us total. Only three of us were black, two were mixed, one was latino, and the rest were white. I never paid it any attention, because we all loved the game and most of us were friends outside of the team. Our best players consisted of: a Liberian as a forward, a white kid as our left wing, one of the mixed kids and myself as defenders, and the Latino as a sweeper. The Liberian and the Latino were capable of playing all positions and I just always assumed it was because they grew up playing; not based on where they were from or genetics, but overall years of experience.

Playing against the other teams in our city and soccer district, I was shocked to know that most people knew about our Liberian player from previous years of high school soccer. It was my first and only year playing for my school, so I didn't get to make much of a name for myself like the others had. Every game we played, we played our hearts out. We were all just looked upon as low-income household players with nothing better to do, which was never the point. Most of the teams we went against were predominantly white teams. The only teams that were even close to being as diverse as our team, were the three other teams in our district. All of the teams outside of our district only consisted one or maybe two black kids. And of course, it's never appropriate to judge a book by it's cover, but all of the teams other than ours seemed to be filled with rich, spoiled, white kids who had probably been a part of a soccer team since pre-k. Their crowds were always all white and sometimes, they would make snarky remarks to us and our teammates. We would always stand up for ourselves and each other, but that just made us seem uncivilized in the eyes of these upper-class people. In their eyes, it felt like if we didn't have as much money, we didn't get the right to talk back to them at all. It was the same thing every game, but it occurred pretty damn often. 

Watching soccer in other nations and seeing how diverse it is, leaves hope that soccer here in the States will soon become the same way. How did soccer go from a sport played by poor kids nonstop in African countries and Brazil, to a rich, white sport? Is it because its still viewed as foreign and extravagant so people spend money on constantly, leaving no room for the poor? Or perhaps it truly is just looked upon as a boring sport that white people? Either way, I pray that changes soon, because everyone deserves to witness the beauty of soccer, no matter the race or social class. Soccer is the most beautiful sport and continue to be as long as we continue to see it as link bonding people together instead of a lavish part of life for the rich. Soccer is for everyone. Let's all enjoy it together.