If you play soccer, you've heard these words countless times. From youth soccer to the World Cup and in a multitude of languages, these are the sounds of soccer. Today, they echo off the roof of an indoor futsal pitch in Curitiba, Brazil, as nearly 20 wish kids and their families get the chance to do more than just watch the sport they love … they get to step onto the field.
We'd planned to go to an outdoor field, but a heavy downpour and some lightning ended that plan. Volunteers from the Brazil Make-A-Wish affiliate soon found us an indoor field, and we couldn't get there soon enough for the wish kids.
Soon, they divide themselves into three teams, which include their families. And then, it's game on.
From the very first kickoff, something changes. Wish kids, parents and siblings scrap for every 50-50 ball. They throw themselves into every tackle. The goalkeepers pounce on every shot.
They're regular kids, regular families. Some bear scars from surgeries. Some still face medical hurdles looming in the future. But none of that matters today. Nine-year-old Lenny, who is well short of 5 feet tall, steps up to challenge a wish dad. I'd never guess he was diagnosed with leukemia. Shay, 14, collides with another player and springs back up, grinning, ready for the next play. I can tell that facing osteosarcoma is far from his mind; Shay is so enthusiastic about everything that he takes a turn in goal, a spot out in the field and then a turn as a referee.
On the sidelines, parents smile and snap photos as their kids run, sweat and laugh. You've probably seen something just like this at your local park. It's completely normal and carefree, which makes it far removed from so much of what each family has endured.
But there's also something a little different, and it's not because of the life-threatening medical conditions the kids have overcome or continue to face: it's that every player is important. The oldest, most-skilled players pass to the smallest players. They sub in and out for each other. Everyone has their chances. They want to win, but they find joy in just stepping onto the field.
Two hours later, the whistle of the last game (a kids-versus-dads extravaganza) sounds and we head to the buses. I've been with this great group of families as they watched a live World Cup match, and as they cheered themselves hoarse while watching the televised Brazil versus Mexico match at the Fan Fest. But today, I am convinced that playing soccer has lifted their spirits and brought them together like nothing else so far. I can't wait to see their friendship grow even more over the next few days.