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I stood perfectly still as the cool water washed over my entire being. The frosty water soothed my racing thoughts like a mother calms her crying child. My thoughts, though temporarily subdued, returned again to my upcoming soccer game. Finally this earth-shattering moment had arrived. I was going to play in a soccer world cup final. I could imagine the neatly trimmed grass unscarred by the studs of the cleats, the lights so bright they are almost blinding, and the fans cheering my team’s name. I turned off the water along with my daydreams. I had to focus all my energy with the adrenaline that had been coursing through my veins ever since I was informed I got to be a participant. We trained through grueling practices just to prepare for the first game. Then we kept practicing until this very day arrived. We went on runs through pouring rain and heavy sleet. We conditioned on the muddy ground at our local field developing toned and tanned biceps, calves, and triceps. This team has endured to try to best prepare themselves for this very moment: the Final World Cup Match.

As I stood in my hotel room and stared at my freshly cleaned and pressed uniform, I gathered my many muddled contemplations and concentrated my entire body on the game-the game that I have dreamed about since my childhood; the game that would and had changed my life. Soccer was an outlet in my youth. It was the one place where I felt like I belonged. If only I could feel that way in the rest of my life. I didn’t know who my father was. All I know is that I have his piercing blue eyes and tall, built frame. I was raised by a single mom who was rarely home, and I, the eldest of three boys, watched out for my younger siblings. Then, three years ago my youngest brother died. I still felt responsible. I had never found happiness again. True, I have had glimpses of happiness but nothing that lasted. To find this much-searched-for contentment I must win the Soccer World Cup. Then I knew I would be happy once more. I hear my watch’s alarm begin to beep and realize that I must rush to get to the field on time. I was day dreaming longer then I realized. I run a brush through my hair and don my fresh uniform quickly. I scurry around my bedroom until I have gathered all the items that I will need. I rush out the door crossing off every item from my mental checklist: socks…check, cleats…check, shin guards, water…double check. I now am confident that I am fully prepared, at least on the physical level, for this match to take place. I have confidence in my team that they are as well prepared as I am.

As I enter the stadium’s locker rooms, all is silent. We put on our needed equipment sitting on the cool cement bench and head out to warm up. As a team we run the length of the turf covered field and commence a few passing drills. Our cleats connect with the ball as it skims across the green field. The adrenaline never stops flowing. We pass, run, and dribble until we are playing at the top of our game. Our coaches gather us for the traditional prayer before a match. We proudly wear our country’s colors of crimson and gold onto the field to face the other team for the first time that day. We are all nervous, but excited as the announcer calls off our positions, names, and numbers. I hear him call mine out and shudder with excitement-midfield, number 3, Franz Rosenthal. Before I know it, we are lined up on the field and the first whistle blows. My lifelong dream has just begun and will end in a mere ninety minutes.

I stand on my toes to keep alert and play as hard as is physically possible. I pass up the line and sprint toward the goal. The goalie’s eyes are staring strictly at the ball as it moves closer to the penalty box. I move in, receive the ball and dribble- inside, outside, and then inside again. In the instant following the few dribbles I take the shot, my long, toned leg rippling with the force. The ball seems to move in slow motion as it moves closer and closer to the net. I barely even see the player to my right as he slams into my side. I fall to the ground because of the great impact, my blond hair flopping over my eyes. As I lay on the ground trying to stand, I hear a cheer arise from the crowd. The sound is louder than a wave crashing harshly against a rocky beach. I do not know if it is a cheer for my goal or a save from the opposing team. My team comes over to me and helps me rise to my feet. I have made the first goal of the game. As I get up my teammates congratulate me, saying, “great shot!” and “the dribbling was genius!” I reply to all of them, “thank-you” again and again. I was floating on a cloud high above the others. I was that much closer to fulfilling my life’s goal. Though the game started off so well, the other team quickly scored three goals in retaliation to our measly first.

The half-time whistle blows and the score is still not in our favor. The scoreboard reflects for us the feeling of seeing one’s fate sealed in death. It reads 3-1. We all enter the locker room solemnly one by one. Our coaches follow and shut the door loudly behind them. That sound is as melancholy as any of us have ever heard. We sit for a few minutes drenched in sweat breathing hard for we are all very drained. Our head coach stands, and we all turn to look at him. He begins a pep talk to be remembered above all others. The overall positive demeanor to his speech surprised us all.

He began by saying, “You are all still in this game. It all starts with your thoughts, your mental attitude. Up here (as he points to his head) is where the game’s result is determined. You are men, and I will treat you as just that. You will play your best, put your heart in it, and practice strict sportsmanship. You will play this game clean whether you win or lose. Now, you go out onto that field looking as fresh as when you started and with just as much confidence. This game is not over yet.”

After this short but stirring address he sat down once again.

We all returned to that field filled with a new resolve. We could win this. I called out varying commands. “Play it to the outside!” “Come on men! I believe in you!” My team was currently down by a single goal. It seems that our coach was correct in his theories. The ball was passed from player to player and the shot was taken… and missed. The final whistle blew thrice. The game was over and we had lost. The other team celebrated and received their trophy while we walked off the field numb of all sounds and feeling.

“The game was over,” I resigned myself to think, and we had lost. My goal was finished along with my dream of winning. I retired that year, and wondered where I would find my redeeming joy now. Fortunately I found much more lasting happiness in my life. I married my wife and have had three children with her. I realized the falseness of my goal to win a World Cup to gain enduring cheer and now have more lasting goals in my life that do gain this searched for delight. After all a trophy is just an empty cup that has no use once won. I now understand that life is more then just sports awards. Sports are a great fun thing, but they should not be your top priority. My life is centered around my family. They are the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. The world cup was a great lesson for the rest of my life. We need to have eternal aspirations that go on forever, not just temporary goals that once fulfilled leave us wanting. I am only now happy, truly happy.



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