A lady who recently turned 22 asked my friend where he had been and the guy responded, “I was playing street soccer with my friends.” The lady, shaking her head, replied, “Oh little boys, when will you grow up? You still play soccer at your age?”
I felt pity for the 21-year-old guy for feeling humiliated by the 22-year-old lady’s comment. And this bring me to the topic of this week’s edition; when is one ‘required’ to quit sports?
In many European countries, kids are encouraged to play sports from the age of seven and this can be testified by La Masia de Can Planes, the FC Barcelona’s football training facility. The name ‘la Masia’ is often used to generically describe the Barcelona youth academy. This academy is responsible for more than 300 young players aged 7-8 to over 18-year-olds.
Despite being in his fifth decade – and already holding the honour of the oldest Premier League player – Tottenham’s goalkeeper, Brad Friedel (42), was an ever-present figure for Spurs last season and still notches up appearances for his club.
Manchester United’s midfielder, Ryan Giggs, still plays football at the age of 39. Kimi Räikkönen, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are just some of the Formula 1 drivers who are well in their 30s but still play.
While sports enthusiasts in other countries are encouraged and respected more for playing, in Namibia, one will be shamed by others, especially when they play in the non-league divisions or for fun. They might even be labeled ‘adolescents’.
Many local sport enthusiasts thus refrain from partaking in sports, because they are afraid of being regarded as immature. The culprit is the person who shames the player, because clearly, they do not know what sports can do to one’s life.
Apart from the economic freedom that sports can give, there are many advantages in playing, including physical, mental and emotional strength.
One of the physical advantages of sports is the exercise that one gets while playing the sports and practicing for the games. A mental advantage is the way some sports can stimulate the brain with problem solving or intense concentration. An emotional advantage comes with the social interaction with other teams and team mates. The team mates may bond and develop friendships with the other players to last even after the season is over.
Adults and kids alike learn to work together towards a common goal despite personal differences, through sports. This brings me back to La Masia.
In 2010, La Masia achieved a record-breaking honour becoming the first youth academy to train all three finalists for the Ballon d’Or within a year, with Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández all making it to the podium for the ‘Best World Footballer of the Year’ accolade.
Point is; never quit playing, because others are making fun of you and never quit playing for as long as your body and mind are in the right state.