Clank … silence. Clank … shock. Clank … tears. The sound of the ball bouncing off the post during a penalty shootout haunted the Booth Soccer team this past year. Two MBA finals appearances. Two defeats in Penalty Kicks due to a shot careening off the post. Try as we might, many of us couldn’t forget the heartache. This was a new year, a new team.
An influx of talented first-years joined their second-year brethren, and 38 members of the Booth Soccer Club traveled to UCLA to take part in the 13th annual MBA World Cup Tournament. We knew it wouldn’t be easy with 17 teams including Columbia, Haas, Kellogg, and defending champs UCLA fighting for the cup. It would be a grueling 2 days with 3 round robin games on Saturday and then, pending qualification, the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final on Sunday. We couldn’t wait to get on the field and rewrite the past.
Booth fielded 2 teams that battled hard the first day. Booth Phoenix finished with 1 loss and 2 ties, narrowly missing the cutoff for quarterfinal qualification. Booth Maroons cruised during the first day (whooping Kellogg in the process 5-0), and secured the #1 overall seed heading into the knockout round.
That night the entire Booth team bonded over an authentic Argentinean Asado. In between devouring various types of meat, we discussed who the best soccer player is today, shared jokes and stories, and got to know each other a little better. This is what soccer is about. It allows an Argentinean to see eye-to-eye with a Chilean. For 60 minutes, Europeans, Latinos, Asians, Americans, Africans, and Arabs speak the same language. Out on the soccer field, nothing matters but your teammates and your collective goal. This may be why soccer is referred to as “the world’s most beautiful game.” Loose and focused, we were ready for the knockout phase.
Sunday started with a 3-0 trouncing of Stanford in the quarters. The semifinals pitted us against our toughest opponent to date - UCLA. You see, it was UCLA who defeated us in PKs last year and it was UCLA who celebrated as we watched in utter disbelief. Another hard fought game transpired, with the game going down to the wire. As time expired and the scoreboard still tied, we knew we would have to face our demons and settle yet another contest with UCLA in PKs.
This time, however, Booth would not be denied. With mind trick goalie wizardry and calm nerves, we prevailed, and then finished the job against Michigan with a comfortable 3-1 victory. We sang, we jumped, we laughed like little boys, rejoicing in Booth’s first EVER soccer trophy. Suddenly the struggle, agony, and hardships of last year were all worth it. We arrived as contenders and left as champions, but more importantly, we forged friendships that will last a lifetime.
Yes indeed, Booth’s golden age of soccer has arrived.
Author Ahmad Elayat is one of the proud soccer co-chairs, known lovingly by this UCLA team as Jose “the killer dolphin” Padilla