By Ben Skolozdra
The summer of 2006 was when I fell in love with football. I’d been playing in youth leagues in my small suburban New Jersey hometown for several years when the 2006 World Cup in Germany kicked off. I remember getting home from day camp and sprinting to the television to be enthralled by the world’s Beautiful Game. The sound of the crowds boisterously belting out in support of their countrymen was infectious and I couldn’t help but be in awe at the spectacle. Seeing the greatest players in the world run, strike, and save their way to glory in front of a global audience was something I’d never seen before. There truly is nothing better, nothing more special, than the World Cup. After the United States crashed out of the competition in the group stage I was bitterly disappointed but still couldn’t peel myself away. My favorite moment has to be when the pesky Ukrainian team slew Switzerland on penalties in the Round of 16. After the Headbutt Heard Round The World, Gigi Buffon’s epic save in extra time, and the confetti had been swept off the field in Berlin, I knew I was hooked.
The following autumn I was hungry for more world football. Of course I knew of the big English clubs: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool. None of them really intrigued me; they all had the air of being airbrushed, clean cut, and a bit stuck-up from all their success. I was much more interested in a scrappy bunch of lads in Claret & Blue. The first West Ham United match I ever saw was Chelsea away in November of 2006. As I recall it ended 1-0 to Chelsea but I loved the way West Ham played. They played with grit, determination, and a little bit of gruff attitude that I’ve come to learn is the lifeblood of East London. It was from that day on I was a Hammer through and through. I’m extremely proud to have a football home here in Colorado and to be a small part of the Mile High Hammers. West Ham is a family and that family is global. In the end, we are all West Ham no matter where we come from. We are forever blowing bubbles, we are Moore than a club, and we are The West Ham Way.