Our son, Steve Morgan Haskell, has been a soccer fanatic for most of his life. Growing up in a small South Carolina town that was nuts about American football. Steve played that sport for one year and, although the fastest boy on his team, decided he was too small for that sport—and started looking for another sport to play.
I recently spoke with Steve about his love of soccer and asked him to write something about this love. I’d forgotten he played for Furman University against Clemson. Steve wrote:
I play soccer at least twice a week; I watch it all the time, I coach.
Growing up in super small towns in the 60's and 70's I had little
exposure to the sport until I found a thriving culture in a New England
boarding school at age 13. I was tough and fast enough to play American football
but my size kept me from imagining I could be great, or even
stay alive. Soccer was the perfect match for this wild country boy.
Soccer is one of those sports that one can run around not knowing what
they are doing until they might, through osmosis, put
the science and the art together to actually figure out how to play well.
I don't think I have even figured that out yet, but I have my moments.
Soccer found me touring with an all-star American team in Germany and Austria.
I actually remember the post game celebrating more than the games. We were easily
defeated game after game but I managed to score a lot of goals and I was always
invited to party with our victors after the matches. Much schnapps and beer, and laughing.
Some of my favorite moments have been watching the beautiful game.
It was never, or hardly, on TV so if I wasn't reading book upon book about
World Cups past and the South American and European leagues, I was capturing
some local college games in my home town which happened to be just a few
miles away from Clemson University who didn't begin its Varsity soccer program
until 1967-the same year we moved to Pickens, South Carolina.
I.M. Ibraham, the father of Clemson soccer, imported players from around the world
and especially Africa and South America. I was awed by these players and watched
as they ran circles around teams who had predominately Americans on their teams.
They were always top of their conference and won at least two national championships.
I was actually, years later, one of those unenlightened Americans when I played for Furman University on the very Clemson soccer field I spent so many languid afternoons watching those foreign artists do their magic. My full circle moment might sound more romantic than it actually was, I remember touching the ball very few times, but just the fact that I was playing division one soccer against one of the best teams in college history was enough for me. Yes, we lost the game. By a lot.
Soccer saved me. That is a myth I perpetuate but which is based in truth. It enchants my son, Morgan, and I am catching up on all the soccer I couldn't watch when I was young by catching as many games as I can on the computer and here at our local college the Berkeley Bears, who have great women and men's teams. My wife [Michelle] and I even caught a live World Cup game in Berlin Germany in 2006 where we sighted a burgeoning, 18-year- old, Lionel Messi who has since become, arguably, soccer's greatest player of all time. We were there from the beginning.
I was there at the beginning of soccer in our own country. We have come a long way, baby. I still want to be a professional soccer player. Maybe my dream will come true: actually, it already has.