Soccer is known as The Beautiful Game. Now this means different things to different people, but to me, it means opportunity, inclusion and the manifestation of dreams.
I became a soccer fan during the 2010 FIFA Men’s World Cup played in South Africa. Players from Germany, Brazil, England, Africa, the United States and dozens of other countries found common ground. They found opportunity. It wasn’t in the trophy they were trying to win. It was in the soccer ball that bound them together.
No laws had to be passed. There were no policies to be enacted. There was just the ball. The athletes spoke different languages, were raised in different cultures, and ate different food, but the ball, and by extension the game, made them all brothers.
Some probably grew up in affluent communities. Others likely grew up poor. Many more grew up with lives that were in-between. The World Cup athlete’s struggle is not much different than the one we have in St. Louis.
World Cup athletes are divided by vast oceans, deserts and forests. In St. Louis, we are often divided by Northside and Southside. We are divided by City and County, Missouri and Illinois, and a street called Delmar. I think the game can bring us together as well.
No one initiative can solve every social ill, but if you’ve ever had the occasion to open the storeroom at a gym, watch what happens as the coach throws the collection of basketballs, soccer balls and playground balls onto the floor or outside onto the grass.
Without coercion or direction, kids pick teams. Captains are selected and games begin. Kids don’t waste time bickering over policy language or who appears to be supporting what. They know time is of the essence and they do not want to waste any of it.
Major League Soccer and the opportunity presented by the MLS2STL group means opportunity in terms of increased tax revenue for St. Louis City, job development programs and giving young people the chance to realize new dreams.
I wasn’t born a baseball fan. I became one by watching our beloved St. Louis Cardinals as a child in 1985. I saw myself in Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, and Tito Landrum. I dreamed of playing in Busch Stadium one day because I saw people who looked like me doing great things and my city adored them for it.
Dreaming of playing Major League Baseball made me think beyond my neighborhood, beyond what I could see in front of me, and beyond the pitfalls that had taken so many of my friends to jail or worse.
I didn’t make it to The Show, but I did make it out of the Cabanne Courts, Juniata and Arsenal, and the dozen other addresses my family had throughout my school years. I am a sharecropper’s grandson and I am Ms. Ruth’s baby boy.
Every time someone speaks to me, they are speaking to my mom. The opportunities afforded me through sports and through academics have helped me push other young people to achieve their dreams.
Organization such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls, Clubs, the Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation, the St. Louis Sports Commission and others have come together in support of Propositions 1 and 2 to give the next generation its opportunity.
You don’t have to be a soccer fan to vote Yes on Propositions 1 and 2. All you have to be is a fan of young people and the dreams they will realize.