Many moons ago, before this book, and my previous one Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet, following high school, thanks to indiscretions, I ended up quitting soccer for a while…and strayed away from academics as well. In fact, my high school guidance counselor called the morning of graduation, ecstatic, genuinely excited, explaining to me, “Congratulations! You graduated! You’re GPA was just enough!” I had just woken up and must’ve said to him, “GPA? Who is this? How’d you get my number?” And he kept talking, like we knew each other. I honestly had no clue why he felt we were so close. So I graduated. Eventually, in college I would make the Dean's List. Though, in high school, that was my time to dream and think nothing of the future, and I definitely did not foresee writing books as an option. I only saw 'today' and maybe 'tomorrow.' Even though I had written a couple books as a kid (a spy novel, and coincidentally a fiction book about soccer as a sixth grade project), I was too busy playing out the stereotypical path of a high school teen, not paying attention, especially to teachers.
Shortly after high school I didn’t play an official soccer game for eight or nine years and, as it turns out, soccer has stayed with me. To be the only soccer player from Carbondale, IL to play pro (as a 32-year-old rookie) is an honor; to get anywhere in soccer – coming from Carbondale – is an honor. Nobody took Carbondale soccer seriously. Yet, I played with many great youth players there including Gregory Gimenez, Dylan Bates, Matt Parsons, Eric Allen, and many older guys who I looked up to (such as Toby Waller and Tiger Shepard, who were on the first traveling team). That’s where I learned the game, and, along with many others, those guys, Gregory, Dylan, Matt and Eric – who were also phenomenal athletes – were pivotal. Even the goalkeeping exploits of Malcolm Smith and Johnson Bell. (Goalies, what are they good for?) At Winkler, in the second grade, Johnson, the leader of the school, who was a year ahead of me, organized soccer games on the basketball courts; one of my early experiences with the game. Not to mention my guys Aaron Stolberg and Ben Londergan, two great players from the land of IU, where I saw firsthand the brilliant coaching approach of the US national team coach that never was, Jerry Yeagley, at his Indiana University soccer camps, where I was fortunate enough to get two MVP awards. And my man Leandro, who kicked his foot against my couch during one of our indoor games, who was from Brazil, where I stayed and played, gaining valuable insight to the game.
I also cherish having moved to Collinsville and playing with great St. Louis talent (the “king” of soccer); eventually winning a Missouri State Club Championship with Busch and a great coach, a Holland Cup Championship with amazing players and a brilliant coach; from my Elks and CHS days, having played with and against many talented Granite City players; and the scores of talent from Collinsville – including but not limited to Marty Bub, Doug Hartmann, Steve Van Dyke, Mike Verning and Matt Chandler – winning two-consecutive Illinois State High School Championships (back when there was only one state champ), with Rick Artime scoring a crucial goal in the finals with my Brazilian shoes on, after losing his pair, no doubt.
Along with that, and the thirty-odd trophies and awards I accumulated (35 to be exact, but who’s counting), I’m even more humbled and honored to have been asked to write a book about the world’s greatest game and tournament: The World Cup 2018 Book: Everything You Need to Know About the Soccer World Cup. With all the European soccer-genius’ to choose from, it’s a great honor to have written this book. A PG book, by the way, with no cussing – sorry Mrs. Gardner. Currently, it’s the only World Cup book in the world for 2018. Somehow it might stay that way, unless the guys from Soccernomics – an interesting book – come barking up my tree.
Thank you to everyone that has crossed my athletic path, in soccer and other sports…other sports which I clearly dominated. Dominated like Shaq transposed into Time Bandits. In fact, during a time when I should’ve played baseball, no one in high school or college saw my great technique for getting picked off at first, which is called, “Don’t pay attention whatsoever, while you’re telling everyone in the dugout how terrible your opponent is.” Lesson to be learned: "You never start a land war in Asia, you never cross a Sicilian when death is on the line, and never underestimate a baseball player from Herrin, Harrisburg or Marion.” They’re pretty good.
Along the way, for many years I was around so many other guys that had ideas of other things. I was fortunate to share the stage with so many talented guys – Baldhead Phillips, Marvin M Dubbs Phipps, Brian Da Wildcat Smith, Marlon big hoss the boss Mitchell, George Willborn, Leon the man Rogers, Tony Sculfield, Reggie Reg, Mike Samp, Brian Babylon, J Deep, Calvin Evans, Shawn Morgan, Howie Bell, Luenell, Patti Vasquez, John Mulaney, Mo Mandel, Nico Santos, Alex Blagg, Kevin Shea, Jen Kober, just to name a tiny few, and other established vets way back in 04’ who I watched and learned from when I first started out like W. Kamau Bell, Arj Barker, Sam Arno and a myriad of others – and somehow I wish I could do it again. Not to mention other wise people along the way – such as Norm Holly, Mary Lindsey and Phil Greer – who helped shape this adventure, whether they knew it or not.
Don’t drink and drive. Donate to charities, like the Humane Society or Deprived Children’s Education or Meals on Wheels or anything with the word “charity” in it.
Il etait une fois un bon rappeur a dit:
“Who am I? ED the green eyed bandit.
Good night. Knock em’ out the box Rick, knock em’ out Rick.”
Someone else said:
Mon prochain projet est un examen complet de Sanford and Son.
“Again, again. Again, again.”