There are piano movers and piano players on the soccer field.
There are beefy guys who marshal girth at speed to jostle opponents off the ball and keep possession. And there are slight figures who ghost around and with exquisite touches on the ball to perform the magic that gets posted on YouTube.
Erhan Meric was performing a symphony of soccer delight in yesterday’s 7-1 victory over Westmark School in Encino. The Lighthouse Christian Academy Saints are now 5-1 in league play.
Erhan, who learned the music of soccer in Turkey before moving to America and enrolling in our Santa Monica Christian school, knows as much as an orchestra director. He’ll streak past defenders dribbling as if the ball were attached to his feet. He changes up pace suddenly. He doesn’t shy away from the one-on-one, in which he’ll thread the ball through the eye of the needle. He can strike from distance with power and precision.
He’s a bonafide virtuoso.
Against Westmark, Erhand notched two early goals to put LCA on towards a comfortable win.
And then after making two goals, Erhan did something extraordinary. He stopped scoring.
Other high school players would have capitalized on a weak opponent to set a personal record. Not Erhan. He desisted.
Instead, he dedicated his skill to setting up his lesser-skilled teammates for goals.
“I’ve scored a lot of goals,” the soft-spoken junior said. “I wanted my friends to score.”
An Erhan strike, not against Westmark.
And they flubbed. They tripped. They shot wide or high. It was a great opportunity for them to learn in a real life game.
There’s a word for a star who wants others to shine. It’s a word that can’t be used much in the world of sports.
Here it is: selfless.
Sports is thronged by bluster and brag, by trashtalk and mindgame. It is dominated by a deafening drivel of ME. And when the megalomania hits the field, the opponent becomes more than just the other team. It becomes the teammate who’s competing. Yup, when teammates compete among themselves to see who’s the best, usually the other team wins.
Soccer, like basketball, is only beautiful when there is passing. When one player jukes four players and single-handedly taps the ball into the net, that is gloating and unsportsmanlike. While a Messi or Neymar individual performance is sensational, high schoolers go selfish and try to be the all-star, almost never do they make the final goal. Their selfishness undoes whatever prior work they put in to building up to the finale. The last touch of a scintillating run must be a pass because you pull too many defenders to you.