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The Unifying Force of Football

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Real Madrid CF v Getafe CF - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Lately, the world has felt like a chaotic, confusing mess that only seems to be getting worse. There are divisions and splits happening between families, friends, and even within inter/intra-faith circles. It’s maddening — and isolating — if you dwell on it too long. Thankfully, this is where football comes in. It is the one thing that can connect each person and each country. It’s a unifier, even if we root for different teams.

Think back to November 2016. The day the news broke about a plane crash in Colombia that killed all but three of the players on the Brazilian Série A side, Chapecoense. The news of the crash spread far and fast. Personally, I had never heard of the team, but I cried as the details were released and with each statement of support that came out.

It was the beginning of the season when Colorado Rapids center back, Kortne Ford, found out that his mother’s cancer had returned. The local scene joined together and reached out quickly to support them as she began her fight all over again.

However, when it comes to football, there’s more to its unifying nature than just bridging communities after a tragedy.

When I first started my current job five years ago, there were a couple coworkers that I didn’t talk to much. Part of that had to do with working in different locations more often than not, but another part had to do with not finding commonalities. The commonality that we finally found was football, and specifically, Real Madrid football.

A week ago today, I was on my way to Nashville, Tennessee, to wrap up the last stop of my six-day mini-vacation across three different states. It started in Harrison, New Jersey, with a stop at Red Bull Arena for the Ecuador versus Jamaica international friendly with my fellow MLS Female writer, Sylvana Budesheim. I spent the next day in New York City hanging out with two more fellow writers, Tisha MacCollum and Keira Smith before heading to the Bronx for the NYCFC game against D.C. United. It is because of football that I even met these three. For two of them, it was the first time that we had ever met face-to-face, but you wouldn’t have known it if you saw us together. As I jumped in my Lyft that night from Port Authority Bus Terminal to Willowbrook, New Jersey, I learned that my driver was Ecuadorian. I happened to have my Liga Deportivo Universitaria kit on and that started a conversation between us. Unfortunately, he’s both a Barça fan, and an Ecuadorian Serie A Barcelona Sporting Club fan. (You guessed it – BSC and LDU are rivals akin to FCB and Real Madrid.) It was still probably one of the more enjoyable Lyft rides I took over that trip.

From there, I left for Nashville, Tennessee, to meet up with a friend for the US Men’s National Team game against Mexico — you know, our CONCACAF rivals. I’m not going to lie – I struggled with going to the game because of the actions that Gabe wrote about in his “What the hell is going on?” article. I nearly sold my ticket, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was my first time sitting and singing with the American Outlaws, and I felt like a part of something bigger. After the game, my buddy and I ended up hanging out with some Mexico National Team fans and wandering Broadway. I had even managed to convince one of my hostel roommates to buy a ticket and go to her first ever soccer game.

These interactions, these community building moments, are how football has brought some stability and unity into my world. I know I’m not alone. We may have everything in common. We may only have Real Madrid in common. You and I may not speak the same primary language but we both speak football and sometimes, that’s plenty.