Another uneventful weekend has passed in Hyde Park, NY... at least on the surface. My activities included laying in bed, watching movies, getting a hair cut, mooching off of friends for food, and spending a lot... a lot of time watching highlight videos of one of my personal idols and heroes. Inside my head, a whirlwind of emotions (happiness, sadness, frustration, and incredible excitement) kept me occupied for the two days I had off.
Man United won the title this weekend. They are officially the greatest club in English football history. I celebrated their victory, this weekend. 19 English top flight titles in the club's century plus of existence. It was incredible to watch a side labeled as the worst United side in years pull off an incredible season and win the English Premier League title by a whopping 8 points. They're an exciting team to watch, with tons of extremely talented young players, with an undoubtedly bright future... but thinking about how the season is pretty much over, this season in particular, makes me get a slight lump in my throat. The moment that I have been dreading for years has finally come. Arguably the most influential athlete in my life has played his final match at Old Trafford. I will only get to watch him play one more time, this Saturday, in the Champion's League Final against Barcelona. Edwin Van Der Sar, in my opinion, the greatest goalkeeper to play the game, will hang up his gloves on Saturday... never to play again.
I remember when I was twelve, While I was in goalkeeper training for the first time with a man who I consider to be like a second father to me, I knew very little about soccer. I was not a very good goalkeeper. I was young, cocky, big, and fearless; the characteristics required from a young keeper. But I had no technical skill. I had been playing exclusively as a goalie for about 2 years, and was introduced to a new trainer by a team mate. Mike was his name.
Mike turned me from a chubby little kid who played goalie because he thought it was cool, and he didn't have to run, into a monster. I was one of the best in the state just a year after I started training with Mike. He would pull me into his office and we'd watch film of goalkeepers. The guy who caught my eye most was Edwin Van Der Sar. He played like I played. He was slightly unathletic, not incredibly quick, but he had incredible technique. He instantly became my favorite player, but was not a member of my favorite team... Man United. In 2005 though, that changed. He was signed at the Age of 34. in 6 years he has won 4 titles, a champions league (one more on Saturday hopefully) and a myriad of other trophies. Incredible.
After five years of watching, idolizing, and emulating the guy, and after my playing career was over, I had an opportunity to take a day off work, drive to Chicago from Wisconsin, and just watch a training session. I got to sit and watch Edwin at work, live in person. I was giddy. Then came one of the best moments of my life. He came to the side of the stadium where I was sitting. I trampled a few people to get up to the front row. I actually got to shake the hand of the greatest goalkeeper of all time. I shook the hand that kept out Anelka's penalty in Moscow. I shook the hand that had influenced so much of my 8 year long career of goalkeeping. It had all come full circle.
As I graduate in three weeks' time, I really don't have a plan. I'm kind of like the kid I was 8 years ago. I have a passion, then it was goalkeeping, now its meat. I am inexperienced, but I want to do great things. I'm willing to dedicate my entire life to meat, as I dedicated all of my life back then to soccer. I just need a little instruction, from a guy like Mike, and I need a role model, a guy like Edwin Van Der Sar; someone for me to observe to help me set my goals, develop my techniques, and someone to inspire me to reach my full potential.
Thanks again Edwin, You'll be missed.
Saturday's gonna suck, hopefully a Man United win will brighten up a day when World Football loses one of it's greatest players.