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The Power of Passion: How My Love for Football Changed My World

Your passion may not change the world but it will change your world.

Maya Angelou, Cristiano Ronaldo and Viola Davis had one thing in common. They turned their passions into their careers and became extremely successful by doing what they loved. From a young age, they were determined and focused on a certain activity. Whether it was writing, singing or playing football. They spent endless hours practising, playing and training. Over the years, they developed their skills and talents and are now considered amongst the greatest in their respective fields.

Not everyone will acquire great wealth or worldwide fame as a result of following their passion. Whatsmore, you don’t have to be super talented at something in order to be passionate about it. All you need is the fire inside of you that lights up and sends sparks throughout your body each time you exercise, think or talk about your passion. Regardless of how good or bad you are at something, you will gain a lot from keeping your passion alive.

At the tiny age of 4, I started playing football in my local team. I was following my father’s and brother’s footsteps. It started out as pure fun and entertainment, probably even more so for my parents when they saw my short legs tripping due to my enthusiasm or when I scored for the wrong team.

With time, I got better at it and my interest kept growing. Football became more than a game I played with some local friends. I went on to play for bigger teams, with players from all over the world and even represented my country. My whole life revolved around football. I went to a school that collaborated with my team, allowing me to train during school hours and giving me flexible class schedules. For years I lived at a rhythm that was determined by my sport. Training twice a day with a couple of hours of class in between, eating healthy to prevent injuries and sleeping on time to ensure I was well-rested. Weekends were all about playing my own game and watching other games on TV, not for entertainment, but to analyze and learn from them.

I might not have fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming the next world star but the personal gains I have made from engaging my passion cannot be underestimated.

Despite spending my entire youth on football fields, restricting me from engaging in other activities that children my age got into, I have no regrets. I might not have fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming the next world star but the personal gains I have made from engaging my passion cannot be underestimated.

Football gave me the opportunity to travel all of Europe, visiting cities and countries I had never been to before and I forged friendships with people from all over the world. It structured my life from a young age. I learned how to deal with pressure and how to work with other people towards a common goal. I practised multiple languages. I learned how to stand up for myself.

I accomplished all of this simply by doing something I loved.

Eventually, I came to a point where I decided to take a step back and return to a local team closer to home. It is not professional, there aren’t thousands of fans cheering us on at the pitch and I don’t get to travel to play games anymore. But at the end of the day, it is still the same game. The feeling I get when I step on the grass and my feet touch the ball is the same feeling I got when I was playing at the age of  4. It is the same feeling I got when I played games in Switzerland or Poland as a teenager. I never acquired wealth or fame as a result of playing football but I have derived great joy from it.

So when it turns out that you won’t be able to become the next Queen of Pop or the next NBA Most Valuable Player, don’t give up on what you love doing. Keep singing, keep playing, keep doing whatever it is that puts a smile on your lips and enjoy every second of it. Cheer for yourself, be your own audience and keep the fire burning. Your passion may not change the world, but it will change your world.

Niels Tulleneers
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