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Dominic Mhiripiri '12: Toward a more soccer-loving Brunonia

I grew up in one of the most picturesque places you could imagine, a township that bustled with life in a small and beautiful country on Africa's southern tip — just twenty years after it played host to a fiery national liberation war.

For me, childhood was not a collection of wonderland adventures on Disney turf, savoring a "Mac-n-Cheese" meal after kindergarten kickball or curling down to watch "Chuckle Brothers" and "Scooby Doo" on Saturday mornings. Childhood was the view of the entire world (or so I thought) from the high perch of my father's shoulders as he took walks in the natural Mayambara plains close to our small home. Childhood was "chasing" after airplanes in the air with my five-year-old companions shouting with uncontainable excitement, "Ndeeeege, ndeeeege, ndeeeege!" (Shona for airplane) until long after the plane had been buried in the graying oblivion of the Zimbabwean sky.

But most important to me, childhood meant the endless runs and darts on the dusty streets of my neighborhood, kicking a bouncy plastic ball through the sun, rain and cold. By nature and instinct, I joined one of the biggest and most rewarding cultures in the world — from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro, Moscow to Cape Town — followers of the world's most beautiful game, football. Um … let's call it soccer.

Soccer's ability to forge unity among nations and cast a spell upon billions globally is unmatched by any other sport — a fact mirrored every week at Brown by the diverse student and faculty body that converges upon the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center greens to duel on the field. I have brushed shoulders on the grounds with my former political science teaching assistant, the professor for my next applied math class, my mentees from this year's international student orientation, a leader of my investment club and an endless array of friends and campus acquaintances.

Brown's highly organized intramural soccer season allows students to create teams made up of basically any member of the community and name their team within no particular bounds whatsoever. I won the championship in the low division last year. The wacky name of my team? Multiple Scorgasms. But any giggles you may have had should be spared until hearing the names of other teams: Spicy Withs, I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman, Swedish Medics, Bob's Discount Gear, Frisky Demons, Retired Juggernaut, USB, Still Better Looking, Volvox, Applied Math, Random Walk, NakedBoy55, Dragon Slayers and Public Policy.

The freedom to play soccer at your own comfort level and exactly the way you want is great. In fact, it captures the famed philosophy of liberty inherent in Brown culture that has always distinguished it from other great schools. And while I am impressed by the great opportunity at Brown to enjoy this amazing sport, I am convinced that, due to a number of different reasons, not enough Brunonians have either explored soccer or are open to kicking a ball before they cross the Van Wickle Gates again.

Legend tells us that American history is steeped against soccer, with American football, baseball and basketball claiming the hearts and souls of its people. Meanwhile, soccer grew and conquered the other nations of the world. It created heroes, if not gods — Diego Maradona, Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Zinedine Zidane and so forth. Great teams were created that outgrew even political empires — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Boca Juniors, AC Milan and Manchester United.

Yet clinging to that old stereotype not only slows the imminent spread of "the beautiful game" to lands virgin to it, but more directly, denies Brown students what could become a healthy and rewarding interest before and after they graduate. I recently tried playing a few sports that are relatively new to me — and after two tiring and confusing afternoons of playing basketball inside the OMAC with my friends, I pretty much have no doubt that I am officially the worst basketball player in the history of round balls.

But I am not going to stop trying new things, persisting for the sake of broadening my experiences. I am not going to refuse when a friend offers to humiliate me on the tennis court or in the dunk-o-sphere. I am not going to feign an understanding of other sports that I do not know so that I appear to be "cool," or to create a false sense of "fitting in." But I am going to take the pains, with patience, to play new sports and have fun in different ways.  I promise to graduate from Brown having mastered one of these many sports and, surely, having claimed a few victims from among my peers and current conquerors.

On that note, with a passionate, balled fist raised up high in the air, I call upon the men and women of this institution to join the soccer family of nations. I beseech you all to dare just once to embrace the world's most beautiful game.



Dominic Mhiripiri '12 has never missed a penalty in any real game, a 29-0 record since elementary school. He can be reached at dominic_mhiripiri (at) brown.edu.
 




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