The Soapbox Chronicles: Why The World Needs Football

So the latest news is that Balotelli’s coming over to AC Milan and the Milan fans of the city are stoked. He is such a beast of the field. It’s fun to have a new player to talk about and get more people excited about football and going to games, and it’s coming at a pretty convenient time too…

I grew up in Cali playing soccer. Wait, rewind, I tried out tennis, basketball, the clarinet, the piano and soccer, but soccer was the only thing I truly loved. When I spent a term on an exchange program in Spain, I was thrilled to be a part of a culture that embraced The Beautiful Game, whereas back home soccer was not nearly as popular. My friends and I would get frustrated everytime a big match would be on but our favorite bars weren’t playing it, and I would constantly gripe that we should have been born in Europe or South America. But we eventually did find our football bars in NYC (where all the expats were hiding), and a few friends and I even joined a co-ed team on Friday nights. Of course, a part of me was still pretty jealous about all the football love going on in the rest of the world.

So naturally you can guess just how excited I was when I found out I would be living in Milan for a year while getting my MBA. Finally, I’d be among people just like me! I was so happy imagining going to games, reading updates about players in the newspapers, playing matches with my classmates….

Wait, what? Did I hear that right? Girls don’t play football in Italy? Back up.

Instantly my dreams were crushed. How come in a country where football is religion half the population doesn’t take part in the sport? I know that girls get into rooting for their favorite team and go to watch the games, but I’m surprised that there isn’t more active participation for women. Well, that needed to change.

As some of you may know, a few of us students decided to start up the school’s Football Club this year. Aside from weekly games, we also made it a point to have the first co-ed football tournament last term. It was so great to get back out on the pitch again. We had five on five games going, and I was reminded about what I love so much about the sport. No matter what current issues we had with any classmates, when it came to game time we HAD to work together. Crossing, calling for the ball, (willingly) passing, scoring, celebrating… all of the stress and frustrations that existed back in the classroom melted away. Business school is such a group-focused program, and even though during this time the goal (yay for puns!) is to learn to work better with people that have different styles and backgrounds, it doesn’t always happen as effortlessly as we’d like. But on the field, when it’s either work together or get beat down by the other team, I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the teams all united. And what was even more fun is that it was such a great opportunity to get to know my colleagues better, especially the ones that I am not currently taking classes with. High-fiving, commending each other on that great assist, yelling at each other to make a mad dash for the goal (in the most positive, supportive way of course!) – all of this sure beats catching up over drinks at aperitivo. It would be wrong for the girls to not be able to enjoy this, too!

So even though I wasn’t as thrilled back home with the lackluster appreciation for the sport, now that I look back on it I wouldn’t trade anything for all the practices, games, tournaments, and orange slices I’ve had growing up. It’s ironic that it took coming to Europe to realize how fortunate I am that football’s such a welcomed sport for girls in North America… now let’s see what we can do with Italy! More on the formation of the SDA Bocconi girl’s football team to follow!

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