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Finding Community Through Soccer

January 24, 2020
Richard Ma

In the fall of my first year, I took my soccer ball to Poe Field one afternoon looking to get some practice in. A wide concourse of grass curving around one corner of campus, Poe Field is wedded between the colorful gates of Butler College’s Bloomberg Hall and the glass walls of Carl Icahn Labs.

That afternoon, I’d anticipated only some solitary practice with the all-weather-worn goal posts. But to my surprise, there were already a dozen or more people in the middle of a pickup game. I recognized none of them but took a gamble and asked if I could join. Within minutes, I was right in the thick of it.

Writing this provokes another memory: The first day of my time at Princeton, I wandered by the gentle slopes in front of Whitman College where some other first-years were playing an improvised game of soccer with their shoes marking the goals. To this day one pair of my socks are still stained faintly green.

In high school, I’d never found a soccer community. With the exception of my best friend, very few people were as invested in the game as I was, and when he moved away after sophomore year, I no longer had anyone to talk to about one of my greatest passions.

I now play games of pickup at Poe Field nearly every Saturday. With a few friends I met during these games, we also formed an intramural team called the Poe Fielders. When the weather gets too cold, I have one-on-one training sessions with one of my best friends in the squash courts of Dillon Gym, an improvised location that we’ve found highly rewarding, nonetheless.

It seems like such a small thing – people who treat soccer as more than just an after-school sport but, instead, as a lifestyle; people who I can watch games and play FIFA video games to unwind. Soccer may be big where you come from, and this may seem unremarkable to you. But I guarantee that if you have a passion that you’ve been aching to share with those around you, you’ll find that community here at Princeton. There are so many clubs here; more than that, it’s impossible not to find groups of people who share your interests.

For me, it was as simple as wandering past a soccer scrimmage, asking if I could join, and having the ball at my feet seconds later.