Stranger 99, Day 99 – Meet Shyamal, the “Organizer for the Love of the Game”

Stranger 99, Day 99 - Meet Shyamal

I knew this day was going to be a busy one spent with my brother and his family. So, I wanted to meet today’s Stranger real early in the day. Fortunately (and very fun-ly), I met today’s Stranger while playing pick-up soccer in the morning. This was the first time I was playing with this big group of players; though, I have several friends who play regularly. There was probably a good 50 players out there for 9AM pick-up. My field was set with two teams with 9 players each (small-sided games). So, I felt pretty comfortable finding a player to meet today.

In fact, today’s Stranger is the organizer of these large pick-up soccer meet-ups. Since it was my first time playing, it was fitting that we meet.

Note: I did approach one other person prior to the Stranger of the Day. However, he felt too exhausted after game play to speak/ think coherently.

Meet Shyamal, 26

Who are you?

“I am a human-being that’s loves soccer. So, I organize all this stuff every week. I’m an immigrant to this country – a U.S. citizen now.”

“Just trying to, I guess, live my life the best I can. I was actually born in Kenya in Africa. Lived there for 12 years. Then, moved here, and yeah, been here ever since.”

I imagine organizing this type of thing is a lot of work. Why do you do it?

“Basically, because I want to keep playing. When I came to this, I wasn’t really doing the organizing. I was just part of the people. When one of the organizers had to leave, they needed some people to step up. I have a lot of free time usually, and I like playing soccer in that free time, so that’s pretty cool.”

“I get to organize and make sure other people can have fun and have a place to play, and we can keep this thing going for a relatively low cost. Basically, we’re not making money. But in Atlanta, it’s hard to find fields and things where you can just play for free, and have the equipment and stuff. We have to pay a little bit of money for that, but it’s relatively low.”

“But yeah, basically for the fun!”

I noticed that you’re an immigrant. Here, there’s just a plethora of different immigrants.

“Yeah, a lot of them are here, too. Soccer is, like, an immigrant sport, I guess, or like a sport that’s growing in America. But’s it’s big, obviously, in the rest of the world. That’s what a lot of these people bring when they come here – a love for soccer. It’s one of the things that kind of binds us all together. That’s what I find is pretty good – pretty good connections.”

A little bit outside of soccer, what are some of your other passions?

“So, I like movies, video games. Whenever I hang out with my friends, that’s what we usually do. Or, we’ll watch sports on TV. Video games, music, things like that. And then for my job, I work in a children’s hospital. I do software development for them. That’s pretty fulfilling, too.”

“So, I have two fulfilling sides of my life with soccer, and I guess, my actual work. But also, for fun, I’m a really big video game fan. That, too, whenever I get time.”

Yeah, I’ve met a couple video gamers including a professional. It’s pretty interesting hearing about all the stuff he wins.

“I really like single-player gaming. Games with stories and things. I like movies, too, but games with stories are really cool. Multi-player gaming, I’m just not very good. Unless it’s FIFA. I’m good at FIFA. Other than that, yeah, it’s tough.”

Anything about video games and movies and stuff that you really love? Is there a root cause to why you love these?

“I like, I guess, you get different experiences. So, I do like traveling and whenever that’s possible, that’s good to get different experiences. But when you just need to turn on the TV or go to the movies, and you can get a different experience. You can get an escapism, or you can get something very real. But it’s just easily accessible. It’s good. So, I like movies with a good story, a lot of good characters. Sometimes, I like those action movies, too, obviously. Usually, just good stories.”

I’ll start to wrap it up. You watch a lot of movies and some Marvel and super hero movies, so this will fit in great. Yesterday, I met Lindsey who was a big fan of comic book movies, super heroes, etc. So, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day, if you could ask anyone anything, effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger, what would you ask them? So, Lindsey wants to ask you if you were a villain, what super hero would you want to destroy, and why? (Thanks to Lindsey, Stranger 98)

“Any of the Marvel or DC super heroes? I would pick Superman.”

It could be any super hero, any comic.

“That’s true. Well, I’d still probably still pick Superman. I like the super heroes that are… well, my favorite super hero is Batman. I kind of like that he’s someone is very real – a little more realistic, I guess, if you had to say that he doesn’t have super powers. I guess Superman is just too powerful. As someone who is very… very one-sided character where he is just purely good. You know what I mean? Like, he doesn’t have a gray character to himself. Other super heroes, I feel, like Batman, have a little bit of white in them. Black… or just gray side to them. So maybe him.”

“Best I can come up with!”

So, what’s a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“You could ask who is their favorite soccer player, and why? Maybe. Or something better…”

Not sure if tomorrow’s Stranger will know soccer, but…

“That’s true.” He thinks for a moment.

“You could ask what they plan to do to make things better in the future for everyone else.”

“… Maybe. I guess that’ll be a good question that is kind of general.”

After the handshake.

Like I said, it was my first time truly playing with these guys aside from 6 or so other friends I knew. So, it was nice to speak with the organizer. This pick-up play is supposed to be geared for pretty competitive players, too (or at least, non-beginners), so I had to play some before actually being let in. Doesn’t hurt to meet the guy who runs it, too!

Shyamal was very nice and open to speaking with me. It’s hard work setting up these meet-ups, and ensuring we have a place to play week in, week out. Spending a few minutes to get to know the man behind the curtain is sometimes rare. Luckily, he plays and organizes this because he has a passion for soccer and enabling others to continue playing soccer. Much like we talked about the immigrants who were playing, we could all find a common ground that bounds us all together. Sometimes, that’s really all you need to create something as fun, as consistent as these pick-up games.

Meet Shyamal. No longer a Stranger.

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  1. […] could ask anyone anything, what would you ask anyone? Yesterday, I met a gentleman by the name of Shyamal, and he wants to, essentially, ask you, “What is something you’re planning to do or do […]

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