I want to tell the story of how my friendship with Maurice Edu was based on a moment in time that I will always cherish and how that moment has shaped me into a passionate fan of soccer.
I woke up the morning of June 18th in Johannesburg South Africa preparing to attend my first ever World Cup match. USA was taking on Slovenia at Ellis Park Stadium. I had looked forward to this trip for months. I had looked forward to this game for just as long. I had never seen a soccer match with so much riding on the line. This was the World Cup and I was hype to see my country play on the largest stage in the world. This was a team full of some of my favorite players. Dempsey, Howard, Donovan, Beasley and Mo Edu. Me being the person I am, I was a fan of players that were either the best of the best, had similar likes as myself or a good combo of both. I remember learning about Mo some time before the 2010 World Cup. I knew he grew up around my way and loved sneakers. We actually had a mutual friend but I didn’t find that out till later.
I remember watching the National team prepare for the trip to South Africa and noticed how they loved to play from behind. I think all 3 prep games before the Cup, the USMNT had trailed at half. In 2 out of the 3 instances they came from behind for the win. Mentioning this brings me back to that day versus Slovenia. Walking into the stadium the buzz was unexplainable. Everyone knows the USA travels well and it apparent that June afternoon. With an attendance of about 48000 people, I would easily say more than half of them were supporters or fans of the USMNT. The electricity was inspiring, and I could only imagine what it would have felt like as a player coming out of the tunnel on that day. The stage was set for what was one of the craziest games I have ever been a part of.
Just as expected the USMNT came out seeming to want to play from behind. I can remember a couple in front of me turning around and asking us if we paid a lot of money to come watch our team play this bad. This couple was also American, and they had said they spent about $15k to come watch the US play. In that moment I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed. I was a fan of our National Team and knew how they had been trending so with the little belief I still had in me, I told them the teams’ recent style of play and tried to convince them the money they had spent was well worth it. Foreshadowing a bit without knowing it, that little belief turned into epic moments. In the 48th min down 2 goals, Landon Donovan scored on what was one of the wildest angled shots I had ever seen, followed up by Bradley putting one into the net in the 82 min. The excitement was beyond words. The crowd was going crazy and the noise was deafening. No more than 2 min later in the match, Donovan steps up to take a free kick. The ball was placed perfect into the box. In what happened in a matter of seconds seemed to last for min as the ball traveled perfectly onto Maurice Edu’s left foot and into the back of the net. I literally jumped out of my seat. My brother who had been traveling with me fainted onto my left shoulder. I can remember having to catch him from falling into the couple in front of us. The couple that was in front of us turned around screaming and high fiving us. It was a moment I will never forget. I then look just about the same time most of the crowd did and noticed the ball was not placed back at the center of the pitch. In bewilderment I asked around the seats what had happened and the only thing that people knew was a foul had been called. The rest of the game was a blur for me. Completely gutted I knew the we had been screwed out of a win.
Thinking back to that story often as I looked at building KTTP, I could remember wanting to talk to Maurice about the moment. Soon after KTTP started, I had my opportunity to connect with him. I think it was 2015 when I first reached out to him on Instagram. I explained what KTTP was about and we started to chat about the culture around the game. We connected strictly on the basis of sneakers and fashion. Mo was one of the first players I looked at from a sneaker head perspective. He was a model of what Kicks to the Pitch would become. So, in 2017 with little to no knowledge of how to interview anyone, MLS, EA Sports, Dash Radio and KTTP all got together in NYC for the launch of FIFA 17. I knew Mo would be at the party, so I hit him up to come over and get interviewed. Topics of discussion were Sneakers, Music, FIFA 17 and of course the controversial goal. This was a big moment for me because of the connection it had for my love of the game. Not only was it with one of my favorite players, but it was with someone I became friends with. Listening to the story come out of the mouth of the player who experienced the situation first hand was an awesome experience. I am sure to this day, Mo answers questions about that goal all the time, but it was a point for me in my career as well as a fan of the sport, that everything came around full circle.
I can’t help but be thankful and reminisce about how much joy soccer has given me in such a short amount of time. It’s been 10 years since I witnessed that match it South Africa, and it still gets me just like it was yesterday.