Beyond Step-Overs: Pickup Is About Human Connection

An ode to the special people that make pickup soccer possible: Emmanuel

Emmanuel, also known on the soccer pitch as Manny, exudes a quiet sort of friendliness about him. I am often baffled by his aura of “calm and pleasant” while he describes otherwise unpleasant things during our mini on-field conversations, such as how many early meetings he’s had that week! Since Manny immigrated to Canada in 1994, he has mastered the art of meeting new people — through his “existing group of friends, social events from work, trance music events, and from playing soccer.”

Trance Music!? My suspicions have been confirmed: Manny is as much calm as he is a wild child!

Pickup soccer as a gateway to fulfilling greater goals: Making others happy 🤗

We often overlook people’s motivations behind doing the things they do. Why does someone spend tireless hours on the field coaching young kids in sport? Volunteer at a humane society? Travel to developing countries to educate children? Manny entered the world of voluntarily organizing pickup soccer games for adults 3 years ago, so I was curious about his motivation and experiences.

Do you remember the first pickup soccer game you organized?

“Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was all worth it as I ended up having two other friendly people helping me out.

The experience from organizing pickup games is amazing. You get to meet people from different nationalities and learn a thing or two about that person. Plus just seeing people smile, joking around and having fun makes it gratifying for myself.”

His favourite part of being a pickup organizer:

“Meeting different people and making them smile.” 😄

Similar to three years ago, friendly players still help Manny out as seen on the left. Thanks for making sure the balls are pumped, Isaac!

“I see smiles all around and their body perks up”

Manny and I think that our shared zodiac sign — virgo — has equipped us with unparalleled astuteness, so don’t take his observations about human behaviour during games lightly:

“Of course I have always observed behaviours in human during the pickup games…

Before the game starts, I noticed some of the people’s body language as being monotone and not really engaged. But when the game picks up, I see those people start smiling and more involved which is great to see. After the game, I see smiles all around and their body perks up.”

The human capacity to evolve from radio silence to a symphony of noises also known as laughter, banter, and shouting things like “Foul!”, all within 30 minutes, is wondrous. We are social creatures that are just waiting for our moments to be a part of something and ultimately, have fun. I, myself, have experienced immense amounts of joy meeting new people and having competitive, good spirited interactions with others during games.

Manny up against Roberto at the most recent game he organized, at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto.

The real starting point was SO not 3 years ago

Manny immigrated to Canada 23 years ago from the Philippines, a transition that surely was not easy, and unbeknownst to him at the time, would help inspire his “spirited-competition” approach to organizing games:

“… It’s a culmination of personal experiences to be honest with you. But if I had to pick an experience that made me a better organizer, it’s when I moved out on my own because it taught me to be more social and envision what I want to happen.”

You don’t have to be a natural born leader or a very outgoing person to take the lead on organizing community events. If you can tap into your natural friendliness, diplomacy (to deal with any issues that may occur), patience, and some social skills, all you really need are Manny’s top three tips for organizing games:

  1. Make sure you have the equipment(s)
  2. Be there before other people show up
  3. Have fun and smile

…You also need ❤Love ❤ of the game

Emmanuel (in black) going in for the tackle!

From what I’ve seen and heard, Emmanuel has a true passion for the beautiful game, in more ways that just playing. It’s always fun to know which professional team(s) your friends support:

“From soccer, it would be Real Madrid and Manchester City (sorry United fans), Toronto FC and Spain. In hockey it would be Detroit Red Wings and Leafs (just because I live in the city lol)”

As for his own signature move…

“Hmm…signature move. Well, since I play defence primarily I usually fake going to our team’s goal then a quick turn to lose my opponent then use my speed to carry the ball.”

Aha. Well that is the last time you’re going to use that against me, Manny!

Searching for more diversity

While it is easy to observe the diversity at pickup soccer games in terms of age, nationality, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, there is an obvious disparity in gender (sex) representation. Manny wishes there were more women that came out to pickup games — a tale I have heard many times before. I still can’t crack the code on how to do this, but I just want everybody to know how inclusive all the games around Toronto always are.

He also thanks OpenSports for helping him get fit (through pickup soccer games), but I think he has only himself to credit, for he has become very proactive in organizing games when there are not enough to satisfy his desire to play several days per week!

Even though we joke about how drinking red wine 🍷 means we’re old, we know we will never be too old to keep working towards our goals and dreams:

“I dream of self gratification and having the people around me to be content and smiling.”

All smiles from OpenSports O.G.’s! Manny has been a huge supporter of our platform from day 1, and we are so entirely grateful:)

Thank you so much, Emmanuel. Your passion for making others smile reminds me of the importance of living every day to positively impact the lives of others.

Until the next time, have a wonderful week, everyone!

Alicia and the OpenSports Team ❤