Sometimes Leaving A Youth Sport Is A Family Affair
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A story now about a father, a son and soccer. It's from WNYC's youth media program Radio Rookies. Twenty-year-old Edward Munoz used to spend all his free time practicing and playing soccer in highly competitive leagues. His family spent their free time driving to games and practices, sometimes two hours from their Brooklyn home. Edward quit soccer two years ago and ever since, he's wanted to speak with his dad about the huge change in their family's focus and dreams.
EDWARD MUNOZ, BYLINE: What's up? What are you doing, chef?
My dad loves to cook. Today, he's making spinach pie. He looks like he's in a good mood so I'm thinking maybe I could talk to him.
EDWARD MUNOZ: Do you love me, pa?
EDWARD MUNOZ: Why not?
FATHER: You know why.
EDWARD MUNOZ: I don't know why.
FATHER: Oh, you don't know?
EDWARD MUNOZ: Hopefully, he's joking. Are you disappointed in me that I don't play soccer no more?
FATHER: I don't know. I don't know.
EDWARD MUNOZ: I know he is, but he won't really talk about it. Are you disappointed in me?
FATHER: What do you think?
EDWARD MUNOZ: I don't know. I'm asking you because I don't know.
FATHER: You know. You know everything. Why you tell me I don't know?
EDWARD MUNOZ: Soccer is my dad's passion.
EDWARD MUNOZ: He played for a semi-professional team in Peru. He's a big, strong guy. And they used to call him the beast.
EDWARD MUNOZ: I found an old videotape of me. I was about four years old, kicking a soccer ball around.
FATHER: (Speaking Spanish).
EDWARD MUNOZ: My dad's calling out to me.
FATHER: (Speaking Spanish).
MOTHER: I remember seven years old when you played for Brooklyn Italians. But since you were little, you was wonderful.
EDWARD MUNOZ: My mom said coaches would ask for me to play on their team. I remember during games hearing them say guard him, don't leave him. After each game, I replayed every mistake and every goal in my mind all day long - in the shower, on the train and in class.
I never felt like I was supposed to be in school. While everybody else was learning and getting smarter, I felt dumb. But as soon as I walked onto the soccer field, I was away from everything. I felt free - doing something I loved. By the time I was 13, I got selected by the New York Red Bulls Academy.
Did you dream of me being a professional soccer player?
MOTHER: My dream? No. Your father dream, but it's not my dream to be a professional.
EDWARD MUNOZ: My dad dedicated 20 hours a week taking me to practice and games. He had this air horn he'd blow every time I scored a goal.
EDWARD MUNOZ: But if I had a bad game, he'd say you have the most experience, but you look like this - (speaking Spanish) la peor basura - the worst garbage on the field. He'd make it seem like my whole future was over. To him soccer was my future to make money playing and support my family. We never talked about school.
Did you know I wasn't doing good in school?
ELY MUNOZ: Yeah, I always knew.
EDWARD MUNOZ: That's my big sister, Ely.
ELY MUNOZ: How am I not going to know if my mom is always calling me to cry that you didn't go to school - that you were doing this, that?
EDWARD MUNOZ: Did you do anything to help me?
ELY MUNOZ: No, 'cause do you guys listen? No. Nobody listens. What you were going to tell me? I'm 17. I'm 18. I know what I'm doing. (Speaking Spanish). Pero no saben lavar su ropa.
EDWARD MUNOZ: What? She thinks I don't know how to wash my clothes? Well, I don't really because my mom is always looking out for me. So she didn't tell my dad I was cutting a lot and failing most of my classes.
MOTHER: You know what is - what is his reaction? If I tell him...
EDWARD MUNOZ: She used to ask me if you break a leg, what are you going to do when soccer is over and you don't have an education? Maybe she jinxed me. Because when I was 14, my left ankle got stepped on during a practice. I had to get carried off the field.
After a month of physical therapy, I felt desperate to play again because I was afraid to lose my spot. I came back too early. I was never able to play the same. When I knew my chance of becoming a professional was fading, I felt hopeless. (Speaking Spanish). Tu te requerdas quando yo jugava futbol? I asked my grandma if she remembers when I used to play soccer.
GRANDMOTHER: (Speaking Spanish).
EDWARD MUNOZ: She always says that to me. You were a star, but now, you’re shattered.
GRANDMOTHER: (Speaking Spanish) Claro, eres un estrella pero ahora es estrallado.
EDWARD MUNOZ: When my dad and I are watching soccer, he'll say that could have been you. Now what are you doing? I try not to let it get to me because it makes me feel like a failure a little bit.
Two years ago, I realized time was passing by and I was still failing school. Nobody was going to pass my classes for me. I had to do it for myself.
And finally, at 20 years old I’m the first person in my family to graduate from high school. And now, I’m starting college. I do miss soccer but I’m moving forward. My dad - I feel like he’s still stuck in the past because we’ve never talked about it. Good morning, Pa.
FATHER: (Speaking Spanish) Buenos dias.
EDWARD MUNOZ: We’re in the car on our way to visit my sister.
How do you feel that my mom never told you that I wasn't doing good in school?
FATHER: (Through translator) Look, I knew you were not doing well in school. I knew it was because of football because I was like that. I was passionate about football and school did not matter.
EDWARD MUNOZ: For the first time, he's not attacking me. We're actually talking.
FATHER: (Through translator) But when you stopped playing, I realized it was a big mistake on my part not to react. That was my mistake.
EDWARD MUNOZ: I wasn’t expecting him to admit that because he’d always just blame me or my mom. You know he’s right. He could have done something about it and he should have. But I could’ve just gone to school and done my work.
And how did you help me?
FATHER: (Through translator) Don't think that because you see me cry, I'm crying because I'm sad. No, it's coming from a place of emotion remembering the past and for all the effort that I made. And it seems it went bad because nothing went well for you or for anyone.
EDWARD MUNOZ: Hearing him say that makes me feel like I spent all that time, all my parents’ money, and at the end of the day it was for nothing. My dad always wanted me to be better than him. And I want that, too. But now, I’m trying to do it my own way.
I appreciate everything that you gave me - that you still give me, and I love you.
FATHER: I love you too. Ciao.
EDWARD MUNOZ: For NPR News, I'm Edward Munoz in New York.