In downtown Fargo, cuddling with the train tracks, is the Fargo Parks District headquarters. Although few inside speak the same language, and the sport goes by many different names, you’ll find students and adults all signing up their teams for the winter soccer league at the Metro Rec Center. Each team hopes to bring home their league champion’s jersey and a first place trophy.
Metro Rec Soccer
In any given season the Metro Rec Center, located on Main Ave next to Interstate 94, is home to about 40 soccer teams and 400 soccer players from the Fargo-Moorhead area, says Ben Patrie, an employee of the Fargo Parks District.
This building gives soccer players in the area the ability to play soccer inside even in the heavy snow of winter.
Teams vary in ages and skill levels and include up to four different subcategories per league. Each of these divisions play league games against one another and the champion is decided from a four team round-robin tournament of the top qualifiers.
The games are more than just determining winners and losers, says Patrie, it is a time people can come together and find common ground where there would otherwise be none.
A unifying allure
“It brings people of different religion, race, color, age, and sex, all together to play a game that they love,” says Tyler Lane, the freshman goalkeeper for the Minnesota State University Moorhead club soccer team.
“All the fighting in Iraq stopped because both the Shiite and Sunni were watching the national team play,” says Lane, who recalled hearing this news story during the Olympics two years ago.
This isn’t the first time stories like this have been uncovered. Wars stopping to watch a soccer game are frequent around the world.
Soccer and the Nobel Peace Prize
So why don’t they think about giving soccer a Peace Prize?
“That’s a good question,” says Lane, who laughs it off, “I guess it’s because soccer only stops wars for a moment.”
The Fargo Soccer League has yet to stop any wars, but it has helped to bring a culturally diverse population together.
“Many of my friends weren’t born in the U.S., that’s definitely because of the soccer I’ve played in Fargo,” says Fabian Trejo, a sophomore defender for the MSUM soccer club team, “and most of the people I hang out with now are people who I play soccer with.”
Friends or family?
“The team bonding and ‘family-ness’ we share on the field is something I love to be a part of and it will stay with me forever,” says Lane.
And all of the interviewees agree. Soccer, more than any other sport, brings people close like being part of a family.
“When you’re on a soccer team you’re part of a family. Together you win, together you lose,” says Trejo.
Internationally recognized, nationally overlooked
Still, soccer has yet to become overwhelmingly popular in the United States the way it has around the world.
“There are too many big time, traditional sports in this country for soccer to be popular,” says Lewis Grant, a transfer student from England who plays defense on the MSUM club soccer team, “Even high profile players like Beckham and Pele making the jump to play here doesn’t shift popularity much.”
America likes success and thus far American soccer has only seen unsuccessful attempts at winning at an international level.
Hope and soccer
The constant failure at the international level gives hope, says Patrie, because there is still a chance soccer will be big enough to play in front of large crowds some day.
Until that day comes, soccer will have to remain what it has always been in the United States. A deliverer of hope, unification and friendship among the lucky few who have decided to embrace it.