Photo by Rhett Lewis via Unsplash

The Sparkle Cats is my granddaughter’s soccer team of 13-year-old girls in Oakland, California who have been playing together since they were in First Grade.  They have progressed from fixing each other’s hair while in midfield to fearlessly smashing at full speed into members of the opposite team.  It’s not beautiful but it’s impressive.

In our house, we are watching the World Cup:  twenty-nine days during which our daily schedules depend on which team is playing when.  As I write this, it is halftime in the Brazil-Serbia game.  I will be happy with the outcome, no matter what.  As a Croatian by heritage, I understand that there is no love lost between the Serbians and the Croatians but this is the World Cup—a different battlefield. I am not making light of the shameful behavior now and over the centuries that we humans practice in the name of god and country, but I am happy to take a break and watch people from all over the world dressed in goofy outfits laughing and cheering for amazingly skillful players at the contest called “The Beautiful Game.”

Years ago I asked my Brazilian hairdresser (we were watching the World Cup while he dealt with my roots) why soccer is called “The Beautiful Game.”  He looked at me like I was crazy.“Because it’s beautiful,” he replied.  That was pre-Wikipedia.  You can read the definition here, but my hairdresser was more succinct and reliable.  

Apparently I missed most of the Cats’ games this year because at their final contest, which I did attend, most of them were unrecognizable.  No longer skinny little girls, they are eighth graders clearly in their “tweens”— at different stages of physical development, more coordinated, focussed on the game and connected to each other.  It was beautiful to see.



About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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