You are breaking my heart, but that is my problem, not yours. If you have a spare moment between packing boxes for your move to China, here’s the story of how you helped me become a @SoundersFC fan.
I started watching football (real football, not the padded-up break-ridden sad-ass theater excuse for a sport we Americans call football) during the 2014 FIFA Men’s World Cup. My wife Stephanie (@teawithsteph) played goalkeeper growing up and still loves the game. As the World Cup came closer, I surprised her by upgrading our cable package so we could watch the games. Because I work from home, I was able to arrange my schedule so I could watch the games with her. In between the various group stage games, there was a Sounders game that we also watched – and that’s when I first saw you play.
Oh. My. God.
Oba, you danced across the field. The other players were working hard and seemed to enjoy themselves, but you? You floated, you spun, you drifted; gravity seemed barely able to hold you. I’ve never seen any other player (and I watch a LOT of football now) do the things you do. When you make a run, I hold my breath in hope of seeing magic happen. When you get fouled, I swear — loudly. And when you score, I am jubilant. I have waited for you to score a hat trick so I could break out in celebration.
We went to our first two live Sounders matches later that same year.
We were there for the amazing October 25 2014 game (Landon Donovan’s last regular season MLS game) against the Galaxy. That’s where I bought my first jersey, and put your name and number on it. I started dying my hair rave green to show my love for all things Sounders.
In 2015, you showed up for a signing at Mill Creek Sports. Not only was I able to get a signed picture of your iconic backflip, I also got my green jersey signed. That of course meant I had to get a new jersey to wear. The picture and the jersey proudly hang above my desk.
Stephanie and I also got our picture with you, and that graces my phone’s lock screen. I was SO DAMN NERVOUS. It’s not that I’ve never met famous people before, but I was truly shaking this time. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been good at any physical activity, and here you were, a man who is one of the best in the world at doing the impossible.
We went to two games in 2015 and watched or recorded the rest. For all of 2015, I was yelling “HAT TRICK BACK FLIP” at every game on your behalf. I even dragged my entire family to a game on my birthday after spending way too much money on club section tickets (it was for an auction for Order of the Arrow, so it was all in a good cause).
Stephanie and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in the early days of February. We went down to Tucson to spend time with my parents, who had just recently had their 50th anniversary. After we’d booked the trip, that’s when Stephanie found out the Sounders would be in Tucson that weekend playing the Timbers. We of course bought tickets and came to cheer our team on. We sat in goal-end bleachers; during the first half it was the Timbers’ goal; I was the fat dude with the rave-green Mohawk who yelled “HAT TRICK BACKFLIP FOR OBA!” one of the times you were down there. My son swears you heard me and grinned; I think it was wishful thinking on his part.
Oba, my friend, I had plans. Stephanie and I bought season tickets this year, and I was going to make a large “HAT TRICK BACK FLIP #9” sign to wave for you. I’m a little hazy on the details of how, but in a couple of years after I have a few books published (I’m a technical writer working on my fiction), I was going to work with you on your biography and we would become amazing friends. We would do brews and burgers in each others’ back yards. I now must face the fact the chances of all of this working out are now slimmer than they ever were.
However…I know what a good deal this is for you. You don’t stay in one place too long, and why not? There’s a big world out there. China, at least, seems to understand what an amazing player you are, and they will pay top dollar for you. OF COURSE you have to take this opportunity. OF COURSE you have to go play in China and amaze them the way you have amazed us.
So go, with all our love and support, but know that we will miss you. I will miss you.
Thank you for all that you have given me – a love of football, a love of the Sounders, and great memories. Godspeed you on your way, and may you have everything and be everything you’ve ever dreamed…and then some. You won’t be here in my back yard, but rest assured, I will always have beer and burgers for you. The door is open anytime.
With thanks and gratitude,