In Texas, American Football is king. The state has not one but two professional football teams. The state is home to some of the most successful and honoured collegiate football programs in the country. The local high school football games, termed “Friday Night Lights”, are the events of the week, as helicopters fly from game to game and capture the highlights for broadcast on the local evening news. Hollywood movies have been made glorifying the football culture in the state of Texas (Friday Night Lights, 2004; Varsity Blues, 1999). How is it then, that in this state, in this culture, emerged America’s greatest football, or rather soccer player?
Clint Dempsey grew up with his 4 brothers and sisters in the small town of Nacogdoches, Texas. Of modest means, Clint’s family lived on a trailer park, which provided lots of other children with whom he could play soccer. His older brother Ryan was offered a tryout with the youth soccer academy the Dallas Texans and brought Clint along when Clint was noticed juggling the ball on the sidelines and was recruited. Dallas is some 3 hours away from Nacogdoches, and Clint credits his parents’ devotion to their children’s dreams in making those three, six-hour round-trip drives per week for getting him where he is today.
In an interview which aired on “FIFA Futbol Mundial”, regarding his choice of soccer over American football, Clint simply states “No matter what, you’re going to do what you want to do. Life is short. You want to make the most of it and, you know, you want to do what makes you happy, and have fun. That’s what made me happy”. Regarding playing soccer in the shadow of American football, he continues “It was kind of frustrating at times, you know – you go to American high school football games and it’s almost packed and our games you barely have like 50 people there, so, that was frustrating. But, you know, you love the sport and you play it for the love of it and not for the interest that other people have in it – it’s the interest you have in it.”
Whatever the reason, Fulham fans certainly are grateful for the path he chose as he sets the Premier League on fire, and the United States has embraced him as their national team’s central figure. At 31, he will be older, but not too old at the midfield position in 2014 for the World Cup Tournament in Brazil.