Even though I played soccer as a kid, I grew up watching mostly professional baseball. Even though I did catch Pele play a few matches for the NY Cosmos as a kid, my love for professional soccer started when the US hosted the 1994 World Cup. My professional speaking career, however, seems to be linked to professional soccer.
It all started at my very first TechEd: TechEd Europe 1998 in Nice, France. Prior to 2006, TechEd Europe was held in early summer, always causing me to spend the July 4th independence day outside of the United States. Back in 1998, France was hosting the World Cup and subsequently won it all. While I got caught up in all of the hoopla, I also had to speak at an event in London the next week and the entire country of France shut down, making it impossible for me to travel. Thus began the link with my professional speaking and soccer.
As the years went by I found myself speaking in Barcelona six times and went to FC Barcelona matches each year and they became my favorite team. in 2005 I found myself in Turkey when the European Cup was going on (and had to deal with the traffic since the speaking venue was right near the stadium). In 2006 I found myself in Egypt during the Africa Cup and was in a taxi trying to get to my speaking event in standstill traffic as the entire city tried to obtain tickets for the final match. I had to get out of the taxi and run 3km to the venue to make my talk in time. (I called Patrick Hynds to stall the crowd, but did make it with 5 minutes to spare.) I watched Egypt win the finals on penalty kicks a few days later in the middle of the street in Luxor with about 20 locals surrounding a tiny black and white TV while Kathleen shopped. We all smoked shisha together to celebrate and the shop owner (who was ignoring Kathleen and watching the game) gave us an additional 50% discount on all sales. After Kathleen finished buying her stuff, all of us, including Goksin’s 7 year old daughter, started running through the streets to celebrate.
One of the most memorable experiences was also in Egypt. in 2004 FIFA stated that Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa were the favorites to host the 2010 World Cup. I was in Egypt and Morocco during that time and met up with several MVPs for dinner. They all asked me: “Do you support an African World Cup?” I said yes and said that I will travel back to Africa to watch the world cup in 2010.
This weekend I kept my promise. I had a nice long weekend in South Africa and went to a few matches, keeping my promise to the African MVPs. (You can even look closely at this photo, besides my Team USA jersey, I am wearing my 2010 MVP jacket, and boy did I need it, it was coooold!)
Most of the non-African world hates the vuvuzela horn. The vuvuzela is an uniquely African (mostly South African) cultural experience. You can’t enjoy soccer in southern Africa without it. Showing my support for the African World Cup, I went native and blew that horn all night long.
I am glad that I was able to keep my 6 year old promise. It seems that professional soccer and my speaking career are linked. Any Brazilian MVPs/RDs want to put me up in 2014?
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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in anyway.