Editor’s note: Collin Deckert is a local high school soccer player. This is his first Fans’ View column, which, as he continues with PSP, will make him the youngest ever regular contributor to PSP. We’ve asked him to write about what it’s like to grow up a fan of Philadelphia Union, because he is of the first generation to do so.
On the first day of school in fifth grade, my teacher was introducing herself. She talked about her family, friends and her teaching career. Next, she handed out a piece of paper that said “Name the coolest thing you’ve ever done.”
I sat pondering. I had no idea what to write. I peered around the class and saw everyone writing stuff down. As she started walking around the class asking the question to my classmates, she came to me.
I blurted out, “Well, I had the 1st kick at the Philadelphia Union.”
She looked at me and said that it sounded pretty cool. She had no idea what I was talking about. Pretty cool? I realized that I was very lucky to be able to have the first kick at a professional soccer game!
Here’s how it happened
My dad was the president of my local soccer team, Pottsgrove (Pa.) Soccer Club. In 2011, the Union were a relatively new franchise. With only a year of MLS play under their belt, the Union were looking to build on 2010.
After going to a handful of games in 2010, my father began pursuing a relationship between the Union and Pottsgrove. He wanted Pottsgrove to have season tickets and establish a youth partnership with the Union. After all, we had great experiences in the first year, so he wanted others in our club to have those game day experiences.
Since he was pursuing a relationship with the Union, he wanted our club to wear Adidas and in 2011, Pottsgrove travel teams started wearing Adidas.
My father met the regional Adidas sales rep and they came up with an idea. They would hold a raffle for the first kick. The first kick was a game day experience where, if you won, you were able to go onto the field about two minutes prior to kickoff and pass a ball to a Union player. You would also win free Adidas cleats.
Sounded like a good deal, right?
I filled out an application and handed it in for the chance to win. What are the odds that I, the club president’s son, would win this experience? It turns out I did.
The day was June 11, 2011. Game day vs Real Salt Lake. I was ecstatic. I was going to have the first kick and watch one of my favorite players, Kyle Beckerman, play. The game started at 4 p.m., so I had to be there 2 hours early.
I arrived with my dad and my best friend. We met at the Supporters Gate, signed in, and walked throughout the stadium. They told me when I would be walking out and what I would do once I was on the field. I was extremely excited.
Eventually, the time came. I walked out with my dad, my best friend, and his dad. We walked along the sideline that has the benches on it and I walked right up to the benches and made a hard right onto the field.
I was standing alone on the field. I couldn’t imagine the feeling that the players get when they score or walk out onto the field on game days.
Then the Adidas rep came onto the field with the cleats in hand. I was told to look around and wave to the crowd. The only part I remember about the waving was looking at the River End and seeing them clap. That was the coolest moment.
They brought a ball, placed it in front of me, and told me to pass it to the player standing on the sideline.
The player? Zach Pfeffer. The Homegrown Kid and still a high schooler. I passed it to him (horrible pass, I must add because my leg was shaking), and then I was told to walk off the field.
As I walked off the field, I remember thinking how lucky I was. I was lost in the moment, and I don’t remember walking back to our seats or the game. I just replayed that feeling of ecstasy of walking onto the fields. A couple of weeks later, the free cleats arrived at the house. As I looked at the cleats, I still had that feeling of ecstasy.
As I look back on it, I realize how cool that situation actually was. That is the greatest feeling I have ever felt, up to this day.
To my 5th grade teacher: No, it wasn’t pretty cool.
It was very cool, and I’m so grateful that I had that feeling. I hope all kids and soccer enthusiasts like me can have the same opportunity I did.