I have a wonderful friend, Hugo, with whom I coached youth soccer for many years. He is from Bolivia. I have never met a person with more passion for the game and for teaching the game. He coached both of my sons and gave them a wealth of skills and tactics to draw from as players. More than that he helped to foster a love of the game in my boys. His devotion to youth and the game is amazing.
One of the things he told my youngest son, that has stuck with both of us was how he and his neighborhood friends would get a game going no matter what the conditions. If there was no ball they tied rags together to make a ball, and poked sticks in the dirt any place they could find to play. Most played barefooted, since actual football boots were all but nonexistent. They played for the pure joy of the game.
This brings me to an article I read tonight in the New York Daily News. The lead in of the article reads, "Henry, the league's second highest-paid player, has never played on Seattle's artificial turf field, an unforgiving surface he once said was equivalent to being on a synthetic running track or 'playing around my house.'"
Well that takes me back to Hugo and boys of Bolivia and for that matter the boys and girls from countries all over the world for whom the chance to play is a privilege. The dirt pitches, concrete streets and barely cleared pastures are the places where incredible skill is forged. Hugo views the turf fields here in the United States as an amazing luxury. Why if only his home country of Bolivia had but a few, what a fantastic blessing that would be for the youth playing in his impoverished home land.
In the article I quoted, Red Bulls coach Mike Petke says "Turf is turf. It doesn't matter if the game is on turf, concrete, grass, sand, we're playing this game. It's not in our minds." Petke's outlook aligns with Coach Hugo's view of the game. In Coach Hugo's view it is a tremendous luxury to be able to play where there is no gravel, rocks or ankle breakers.
Henry has lost his roots and his way. He disgraces the game and is an embarrassment to his team with his aloof attitude. If he is truly so fragile that his achilles may snap at the slightest insult, he should hang up his boots. Hugo never cared for the French International player. I never really understood why. Stay home Henry, why don't you go run around your house, I don't care if I ever see you play again. Apparently, Hugo is a better judge of character than I.