From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a professional footballer. When I woke up this past Saturday, a smile crept on my face as I looked forward to a full menu of football matches to watch on television. But as I drove to Starbucks to get a morning tea before the early match kicked off, I had a thought that I hadn’t had in years. What must it feel like to wake up on a Saturday morning as a professional footballer knowing that in several hours you’d be putting your boots on to play the game you love in front of a TV audience of millions and tens of thousands of people crammed into a football ground.
As a young child until a teenager, I played football practically every day either in the local park, on the grass hockey pitch, with my friends in the street or with one of my best friends growing up, any brick wall in site where I could bang the ball off the ball and practice my control and passing skills.
Growing up in Wales in the 70’s and early 80’s, I read the required material such as Billy’s Boots, Roy Of The Rovers, Match Weekly and Shoot Magazine, played for my local town team and on my school side. But at age 14, I was plucked away and moved to the United States where I went straight into high school and, as a Freshman, got a starting spot on the varsity team. I played during the week with a travel team coached by Hermann winner and US international Steve Ralbovsky. My high point of my soccer “career” was my Sophomore year where I scored nine goals and the high school team was going places. But then I was yanked away and put into a public school but didn’t make my new high school team because of an injury. And when I hit my senior year, I didn’t bother trying out. In hindsight, I wish I had.
Other than playing intra-mural soccer in college and indoor soccer, as well as the occasional kick-about, that was the end of my soccer dream. Playing on the indoor soccer field made of basically a green carpet on concrete ended up rupturing both of my achilles tendons, which still hurt like hell to this day. So in my mid-30’s I ended up “retiring” from the game and ever since then, I’ve been pouring my energy into being a spectator and journalist of the sport.
Obviously my dream didn’t come true, but I still wonder what would have happened if it had. Making it to professional status is a long haul. Where I grew up in Wales, we had no coaching or facilities, so I was self-taught until the age of 14 when my high school teacher essentially became my first coach. If I grew up in a different part of the United Kingdom, I may have had access to local leagues, coaching and clinics, but being stranded in the remote valleys of Wales as a young boy definitely had some disadvantages.
Still, it makes me wonder what it must feel like to wake up on a Saturday morning and know that you’re playing a Premier League match that day. What an incredible feeling it must be of pure adrenalin coursing through your body. I’m sure after a while it can become like any job, where the fun dissolves away. But how I envy professional footballers who make their living playing the sport.
What about you? Was it your dream to be a professional footballer? If so, how close did you get and when did you realize your dream was over? Share your stories in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your personal experiences.