On June 22, 1996, I faked an illness in order to stay home and watch soccer. At that moment, I knew that I was hooked on the game. I haven't ever bothered trying to kick the habit.
Watching England play Spain in the quarterfinals of Euro 96 wasn't where my soccer journey began. But it was the first important signpost on that long road leading to this story. Like most of you, I've experienced soccer in more ways than I can remember. I've been (in no particular order) a player, coach, club and national team supporter, mentor, student, journalist, administrator and fanatic of the game at various points in time.
My current role as the soccer editor at NESN.com gave me the opportunity to take the field in the New England Revolution's first annual "Media Game." Pundits and scribes from the around the region laced up their cleats, formed small teams and played each other in four-on-four mini-games. There was also a skills competition that tested our juggling, shooting accuracy and dribbling ability.
For 90 minutes, those very same Revolution players that we discuss and critique were our coaches. The Revolution coaches served as referees. It was all fun and games until the competitive juices got flowing.
Revs fullback Kevin Alston lead the yellow team to two victories, one draw and two defeats. A few contentious moments kept us from winning more and securing a place in the final. Yours truly scored two (own) goals, and would have had a third if the wind hadn't taken my audacious chip over the bar.
Winning the dribbling competition softened the blow of losing games. But it didn't distract me (or other players) from the glaring problem that was the standard of the refereeing. There, I said it … again.
Playing on the Gillette Stadium field was the latest (and one of the most enjoyable) signpost in my long and winding road in soccer. A million thanks go out to the New England Revolution (players and coaches) and its crack communications team for organizing the event. I can't wait to see what the future has in store, nor can I help but wonder if there are any referees in soccer heaven.
Catch a wrap-up of the day's events in the above video.
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/ne revolution