Pick-up soccer

Last year, the Department of Recreational Sports recorded a whopping 20,825 unique student users of our facilities, or 68% of the OSU population.  Unsurprisingly, this popularity has spawned a diverse array of subcultures, many of which are unofficial in nature, comprised of groups of friends united over a common interest.  Ranging from bouldering to basketball, ping pong to sand volleyball, these subcultures are surprisingly difficult to spot, often linked only via a network of friends and not by an official website or organization. 

On weekday evenings at the Student Legacy Park, another vibrant subculture can be found: pick-up soccer.  It's easy enough to join a game, simply ask.  Junhui Lee, a Sophomore studying business, encourages anyone interested to “not be afraid to ask,” explaining that he’s “never met anyone who said no” to him.  Pick-up games at the park often involve participants from different countries.  Junhui, from South Korea, thinks this isn’t a problem in the slightest.  “There’s nothing you need to know or do.  To play soccer with people from other countries, just play!”  Mohamed Alhammadi, of the UAE, candidly explains that not everybody on the field may understand English well, “but everybody knows soccer”. 

In fact, this community displays some of the best human character has to offer.  Kevin Kurniawar, a Senior from Indonesia, described the setting as a bi product of the sport itself.  “We don’t see our differences,” he says, “ because we all love to play soccer.  It's all about being inclusive and enjoying the game.”

Soccer’s global popularity is a great vehicle for bringing OSU’s domestic and international student populations together.  Taylor Barnett, from the USA, and Afnan Wajdi, from Malaysia, agree on this point, crediting pick-up soccer with an increased feeling of involvement on campus.  Taylor explains that, as a girl, it could be easy to  feel left out playing with a group of guys; but because of the friendly environment, she actually wants to be more involved on campus.  Meanwhile, Afnan feels connected simply due to the friends he has made through these games.  Mohamed Al Mehairbi, a sophomore from the UAE, explains it simply: “Because we all play with each other, we are involved on campus and don’t feel lonely.”

A network of friends is really the only institution that holds this community together; it is one guy knowing another, an individual introducing a friend to the group.  Coletin DeFabio, a sophomore from Molalla, Oregon, says soccer at the Student Legacy Park has benefitted him because he has “made new friends and closer friendships.”  Coletin is new to soccer, having played football solely throughout high school, but nowadays soccer is something he looks forward to.  “It was scary at first because I was pretty bad at soccer and didn’t like meeting new people” he explains, “but I kept going out to play and it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made in college.  It all started because a kid on my floor freshmen year asked if I wanted to play.  I saw an opportunity to make new friends, and now I have three great friends that are like brothers.”

Most pick-up soccer games feel more like a social gathering than a competitive game.  Skill levels vary from beginner to expert, and the only time games become intense are when friends play each other.  Taylor explains that it takes a bit of time to “get in the groove,” but then we all get tired and we all chill out for a bit.” Ahmed Alhomran, from Saudi Arabia, explains that “when someone plays soccer, he plays for fun”, adding that he has benefitted by making friends quickly.  Ahmed is at OSU studying English and plans to major in business.  He values pick-up soccer games because they put him in a friendly environment to practice English.  To Mohamed Alhammadi, a sophomore from the UAE, “soccer is just a really good way to exercise and a fun way to spend free time. The target here”, says Mohamed, “is to play and have fun without talking about other stuff, like life’s challenges”.