What Playing Football Made Me Realize About Myself
For the first time in my life, I played a game of football, or soccer as it’s called in the U.S., with my friends.
Was it tiring? Absolutely! Was it fun? Extremely, and I would certainly do it again.
I’ve watched my fair share of football matches in my life, I understand the game pretty well, and my entire family consists of serious Arsenal supporters, which makes me one by default. But I never really had a special interest in the game except for events like the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup. The sense of community during these competitions is strong, and I gladly show support, along with my fellow Nigerians, by celebrating every goal and sharing the disappointment of every loss.
However, my recent experience playing with friends unlocked a different level of appreciation for the sport. Developing the stamina and technique that is required to play the game well cannot be done haphazardly. One needs to be intentional, determined, and persistent. I now look at footballers with much more respect, as their jobs are not easy.
When it comes to partaking in group sports like football, I have always been fearful and hesitant. I feel like I must do my part as a team member and hold my own, but having sickle cell disease makes it harder for me to keep up with others. My blood can’t carry as much oxygen as people without sickle cell, meaning I get tired quickly and struggle to take part in vigorous activities for long periods.
However, I do not like giving people a disclaimer about my abilities (or lack thereof), as it feels almost as if I’m already counting myself out. I wouldn’t want to make people think any less of me and avoid involving me in the game. I also wanted to push myself and prove to myself that just because it may be a little harder for me doesn’t mean I will not perform to a good enough standard.
When starting this game of football, I had never met some of my teammates before, and they didn’t know anything about my health situation. They just assumed I am a typical 24-year-old girl — whatever that means in terms of fitness — and I did not feel the need to correct them. I guess this is the slight benefit of having an invisible condition: If I want to pretend I am the perfect picture of health, people wouldn’t question me.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing football, and I will do it again. I shocked myself as I was able to play continuously without taking a break.
I didn’t expect to enjoy it the way I did, and I thought my performance would be bad. This is probably because having sickle cell disease has allowed me to use it as an excuse to avoid doing many things. It is a very good excuse that I have used countless times, but I became too comfortable saying it without seeing for myself. Saying no became a habit instead of a reflection of my abilities.
Do you find that you automatically count yourself out of activities by assuming you can’t do something as a result of your health? If so, I challenge you to question that thought and put yourself to the test. Like me, you may surprise yourself.
Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.