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I’ll never forget the first day I met you.

I was six years old and I saw you from afar at my cousin Pedro’s birthday party. You were running around and I could see how much fun you and my other cousins were having. I had to go say hi but I was too shy and quiet to introduce myself. You know how it goes; it’s hard enough for a man to express himself emotionally so imagine how hard it must have been for a six year old boy to communicate any sort of feelings. My dad, a self-proclaimed player in his day sensed my hesitation and forced an awkward introduction. I stood there quietly, awe stricken by the beautiful being in front me. Aunts, uncles and extended family looked on as I tried uncomfortably to make conversation. I could hear their stifled laughs as I’m sure my family thought back to their early crushes. They tried their best to be encouraging. I knew then and there that I would forever be in love with you. We stood there for what seemed ages but I could tell from your smile and joy that you liked me too. It wasn’t hard to; I was a stud in my day! There was very little communication that evening but I knew I had to see you again.

 

I excitedly asked my dad about you. I wanted to know everything. He smiled broadly as he thought to himself “this is my son, he got that from me.” I was talking so much that he had to cut me off to let me know that I’d see you at school that following Monday. I was so overjoyed that I couldn’t sleep for the rest of that weekend. But maybe, my young mind thought, that if I slept a lot that Monday would come sooner. But nothing worked. It was the longest two days of my life. I couldn’t believe I had never seen your lovely face around Stockard Coffee before, but it must have been because I was never looking. Dad said you were very popular and that everyone wanted to be your friend and play with you. That was the first time I ever felt the feeling that I would later identify as jealousy. I wanted you all to myself. But dad told me that that was impossible.

 

You were not in my class, so I would have to wait until lunch to find you. I hurriedly inhaled my food and made my way out to the playground to find you. I tugged at my hair, it was becoming itchy. In anticipation of seeing you I tried my best to be as presentable as possible, dousing my hair in mousse and hairspray. My dad laughed when he saw me walk to the bus stop that morning. He said you wouldn’t care what my hair looked like as long as I was honest and being myself. What the fuck did that mean? I as six! Anyways, I searched high and low for you during lunch and I finally found you, you were by the grass. No wonder I had never seen you! I never played in that area. I played on the blacktop. That’s where all the “cool” kids played and I wanted to fit in. Wow had I been missing out.

 

I made my way over and just dad said you were very popular. Everyone wanted to play with you. All the boys chased you around. But you made them work for your attention. It was as if you were teasing them. Even back then I knew you’d be a heartbreaker for years to come, making grown men cry and breaking hearts left and right. But it would always be worth it. Because the joy of being with you outweighed anything. I ran up to you and said hi. I knew you were happy to see me, it was written on your face. Although you teased and ran from the other boys, you let me in close. It was as if you were evading everyone else and waiting for me. It was the purest joy I had ever felt. It was such an innocent and joyful experience. Even as an adult, I still long for the simplicity and joy that reigned over that Monday afternoon.

 

Since that day we became inseparable, joined at the hip. Little did I know how much my relationship with you would teach me about life in the years to come. Although we grew apart during my teenage years, you were always an instrumental part of my being. I’m happy now that we are close again and that I can see you every day. Things may never be the same between us but you were my first love and you’ll always be in my heart.  I understand now why my dad said it be impossible to keep you to myself.

You’re the world’s sport. And for that I love you, futbol.