Today I was playing in a 5-a-side indoor game in which my team was up at halftime 7-4. Over the course of the second half, we started to get a bit tired. The other team had a few substitutes while we had none and were playing on fumes towards the end of the game. This other team started to creep in goals, getting lucky deflections to score and lucky saves to prevent us from scoring. With a minute left the game stood at 9-9, although we were markedly the much more skilled team.
Thirty seconds left. We are doing everything in our power to use every calorie in our body to push it faster. The ball flies into the box, the opposing goalie makes a play for the ball and misses the punch. At my feet, I kick the ball towards the goal and on the goal-line stands an opposing player. The opposing player raises his hand and stops the ball from going in. The student-refs don’t call anything and the game ends in a tie, followed by a dry taste in my mouth. Think: the feeling of the United States getting robbed by Germany in 2002 by a goal-line handball at the World Cup. Except this was worse because it personally happened to me, I’m selfish like that.
Earlier in the MLS playoffs, the New York Red Bulls got Roberto Salazar for assignment to their first playoff game. In Houston as part of a 2-game aggregate series. The game looked promising in the first half as the Red Bulls were up 2-0 on old Eastern Conference foes. The second half proceeded to unravel in which Jamison Olave, arguably the team’s season MVP and best defender gets a straight red card. Two goals are allowed in by the end of the game and New York loses control of the series 2-2. They then proceed to lose their home match in extra time in which calls were made to rouse the crowd into chanting "REF YOU SUCK, REF YOU SUCK".
The thing is…every single footballing fan in the world experiences something close to this. Whether it be at your over-30 game tonight or a bad taste from two world cups past, these feelings are part of the sport. Football is beautiful in the way that everything will balance with time. The highs of New York beating Chicago 5-2 to win the league table, the look on my fiancé’s face when the USA destroys Mexico and wins their CONCACAF group, the crazy elation of Manchester City taking the league at the last minute. Every indoor game, every club appearance, and every international competition is a chance to make us cry, for good or bad. Over time I hope I'll be on the winning end. Please bless me soccer gods.