Luke from Sofive shares his personal experience traveling around the world.
Like millions of kids around the world, I grew up dreaming that football would one day be my life and livelihood. I dreamt of following Wayne Rooney through the tunnel out into the Theatre of Dreams and bagging a hat trick on my debut. As I approached the age of 20 and was watching Marcus Rashford steal my thunder at just 17 years old, my aspirations in football changed.
I love to travel almost as much as I love to play and fortunately the two go hand in hand remarkably well. I have been blessed to have lived and traveled all over the world and the common denominator everywhere I go is football. As my football career slipped further from my grasp, I began to see football as a universal language. As a means of communicating and making friends with people who might otherwise be out of reach. Football is a way to converse with and learn about someone using your feet and not your words. Everybody speaks football.
The passion that exists for this game around the world is unparalleled. Music and food are the only other things that I can think of that speak to as many people in the same way. And it makes sense too. Unlike most sports, all you need are your feet and a spherical object, making it accessible to anyone. I've played many games in my life where in the absence of a ball, we'd settle for a bundle of plastic bags or a clementine picked right off of the tree. Pele is known to have juggled a variety of fruit through his childhood, which I promise you made his transition to a size 5 ball that much smoother.
I believe in the transformative powers of football. My football education not only improved my ability on the field, but guided my every decision off of it as well. It taught me the importance of community, hard work, and sacrifice. My closest friends have been the people who I've shared those experiences with. Football is a powerful tool for positive change. It can transcend barriers of gender, inequality, ethnicity, language, and can teach a player essential life skills and values that will enrich and inform the rest of their lives. Nelson Mandela once said that "sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair."
I have spent the last four years traveling through South America, Asia, and Europe and football has guided my every step, introducing me to some wonderful people, being an endless source of cross-cultural connection, and teaching me a great deal about how the game is played all over this world. So next time you travel to a foreign country where the language spoken is not your own, trust in football to talk on your behalf. Trust in football to listen and respond thoughtfully. And trust in the beautiful game to allow space for a beautiful experience. I promise you, EVERYBODY speaks football.