Just imagine this for a moment: you’re standing in the tunnel, seconds before the kick-off of your professional debut. You can smell the turf. You can taste the crisp night air of an early autumn evening. You can hear the aaahhhs of an anxious crowd; they’re ready for some futbol. You can see the pitchâ€”corner flag to waving corner flag. You can feel the stadium itself, almost as if match night brings life to the grounds, giving it a heart-pounding pulse. This is itâ€”the “big time.” Are you ready?
As you shift your weight from left to right and back again, trying to keep your nerves from getting the best of you, the head official steps forward into the artificial light of the stadium, signaling the start of club introductions. Are you ready?
Despite the short distance, that walk to midfield occupies the longest minute of your entire life. Your mind is consumed by your new home: the screams of adoring fans, your fans; the thousands of tiny flashbulbs going off every second; and the boisterous match commentator allowing your name to roll off his tongue, making sure he holds the last syllable for as long as possible. Are you ready?
You exchange pleasantries with your opposition as a show of good sportsmanship before the commencement of the match. Then the players, and the officials, take to their respective positions on either side of the midline, awaiting the first whistle. Are you ready?
Here is where you say good-bye to the life you once knew as a church-league playerâ€”adios. Everything you’ve ever known is about to be thrown out the window. Your manager’s locker-room speech consisted of one word: composure. Stay calm, and you will succeed, earning the love and adoration of the fans. Lose it, and you will be “thrown to the wolves”â€”and torn apart in an instant. Are you ready?
Well, are you? You better be; here comes the whistle. . . .