Friday, February 16, 2007

Status Report

I’m sitting here, sipping a coffee, glancing into the far-off, wrinkling my brow, stroking my stubbly chin, wondering how far I’ve come since I started the blog.

I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t gotten very far.

Africa’s still a distant land. I’m closer to being signed by Manchester United than I am to visiting Kenya or South Africa. But the intention is there. And with the intention comes synchronicity.

Doors have opened up. The readers have been supportive and kept me writing. I thank you all dearly for that.

My passion for the game has only become stronger. But I’m trying to see things differently. I’m trying to see the sport more objectively, with an eye towards the business and societal impacts of the sport. The events in Italy show us how football affects society. Major League Soccer’s signing of David Beckham and the increased American investment in the Premiership are all interesting trends to follow.

I’m also trying to find a career in the game. That may mean further schooling, maybe an entry-level job at a soccer company.

I admit to regressing at times, though. This weekend marks the top-of-the-table clash between Barcelona and the champions of my heart, Valencia.
I’m as excited for this match as a child waiting for Christmas Day to unwrap his presents. I never want to lose that feeling. When that emotion evaporates, I’ll lose that special innocence that comes with unraveling the nuances of the game. Let’s hope it never happens.

The focus needs to become clearer. Maybe planning a trip to the African Cup of Nations next year will ignite my concentration. Or writing all the African FA’s, as I’ve stated before. A book is a great idea. But what do I focus on? My trip? My volunteer work? The goal of getting to the Final? Or do I write a piece about the history of African football? You see, there is so much material, it is hard to focus on just one piece of it.
The goal of getting to the Final in 2010 is so far off; I need carrots to keep me going in the meantime. So much thinking to do!

Until then, I watch games. I imagine the beauty of a far-off land. I root for Valencia as passionately as I can, hoping they can hear my cheers an ocean away. And I write in this blog with the intention and desire to reach my goal and sit in the stadium as the World Champions lift the trophy in 2010.

The road there may be more difficult than I imagined.

*Small side note: Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares has re-signed with the club until 2009, when he’ll be 39 years old.

I’m a great admirer of ‘El Dragon.’ Not only is he a top goalkeeper, he’s also a classy person.
He gave me one of my most memorable moments during my time living in Valencia.

I lived with three girls in the heart of Valencia. One of the girls’ boyfriends was the physical therapist for the football club. I was soon leaving to come back to the States. The girl wanted to surprise me with a small gift. She arranged for her boyfriend, Juan Angel, to meet me at the Valencia training facility and present me some souvenirs.
I’d never been to the facility and giddily made my way there.

We arrived. The place was dead. No one was around except for a bored receptionist. I’d hoped to catch a glance of Cañizares, to see him hopping around, catching some balls. But it wasn’t to be.
I asked for Juan Angel and waited for a few minutes.
Finally, out of the training room door came Cañizares, in full ‘keeper regalia.
He looked around, walked towards me and said, ‘Cesar? From New York?’ in a deep Spanish accent.
I almost fainted. The man who that year cried when they lost the Champions League Final to Bayern Munich, who’d made all those incredible saves on TV, was asking for me.
I gulped and said yes. He shook my hand, posed for photos, and signed a few postcards. We shook hands. I thanked him a thousand times over. He smiled and said no problem.
A brief encounter (I’ll tell you all about another encounter in a later entry.) but a memorable one.

He remains my favorite footballer. I’m excited he’ll be patrolling the nets at Los Che for the next few years. Thanks, Santi. You made my day a few years back and I’ll never forget it.

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