Where We Meet
Ella Masar, FC Rosenård winger
My boots are laced, the morning dew is covering the pitch, the cones are set out, and I can’t seem to stand up. For so long this has been my sanctuary. It has been the place where I was always free. When I crossed the white lines, put the music in my ears, and had the ball at my feet, I had no limits, no regrets, no pressure. I was Me.
But this time…as I looked around my hometown…the tears were streaming down my face and all I wanted to do was scream.
You see, 48 hours ago I was sitting in my Paris hotel and got the phone call. The phone call that you see in the movies: a shocked expression, a drop to the knees, and tears instantaneously running down their face.
My number one fan, the man that got me involved in the game, my father, had been found dead.
Just three weeks prior we were joking around on the beaches of Chicago and now, now he was gone …
He was the reason that I was in Paris in the first place. The reason that I had decided to sign a contract to play in Champions League, the reason that I could hold onto my dream that much longer. I say that because I had just finished my infamous “MagicJack” season, and was okay with walking away from the game.
I was tired. I was ready to accept the end of my career. However, that’s where my Dad came in. He was the man that drove twice to Philadelphia (16 hours), came to Florida, and regardless of whether I played 90 minutes or 10, I was the best player on the pitch. He was my number one fan.
My father and I have not always been on the same page, yet, the beautiful game was what always seemed to connect us. It was our way of forgetting about the past and allowing us to be present. It was the way him and I were allowed to be the father and daughter that we were when I was 6, 7, 8 years old, running around without a care in the world.
So there I was, October 25th, back in my hometown, waiting to go celebrate a man’s life that I was not ready to say good-bye to. Everything was a haze. The phone call to my French teammate asking for a ride to the airport at 3 AM to try and get on the next flight home, the 8 hour flight, the two hour ride from Chicago to Urbana, and now the unease of looking around at the same high school field that he used to kick balls to me, over and over. The blurry sensation that he was gone.
In fact, everything about the next 5 days was a haze; the extended family, the friends, cleaning out his house, and the tattoo that I got upon my ribs. Even making the decision to head back to finish my contract with PSG for the next 10 months, and to play in our first big league game against Lyon (last years Champion League winners). A game that my father was thinking about coming to. A game where some of the best players in the world were playing, only 7 days after my father passed, where thousand of fans stood in 60 seconds of silence for a man that was responsible for me starting to play futbol, 22 years ago.
You see this game has allowed me to travel the world. It has allowed me to accomplish everything that I wrote down as a 6 year old. My dreams of becoming a professional athlete, representing my country, being an All-American … finishing University. But now it was the reason I was standing alone without my backbone.
Yet, even as his 3 years approach, the questions of what if I was home? What if I had been there to be with my father? Would he have had the heart attack? Would I have been able to save him? Could I have helped him? … These can still be heard in the back of my head, and the pain can still be felt with a searing flash. But, my backbone has begun to heal.
Now, the only difference is that when I lace up my boots and step over that white line, it is the time where I get to connect with my Dad. It is the time where him and I get to walk together with a smile on our face, to do the thing that has always allowed us to be a family. It lets me feel at home, no matter where I am in the world.
The number 30 (his old college football number) will forever be in honor of my father… In honor of him allowing me to always be me. No limits. No regrets. No pressure. Free.