Humans of Grassroots Sport | Zach Mandel
17 July 2018 • By - Will Chrimes
Read time 3 minutes
Our next Humans of Grassroots Sport entrant is Zach Mandel, an American expat who discovered the wonders of London through 5-a-side football.
I spent three years in Toronto, Canada as an American expat. It took me about half that time to figure out that soccer was a great way to meet people.
When my wife and I moved to London in January, 2013 I searched a bit for a local league but was quickly swept into the incredible whirlwind that is London, and soccer faded a bit from the list of priorities.
I was meeting enough people socially, predominately American expats, so I felt I no longer needed the network soccer can provide.
An email from an old friend in St. Louis, Missouri would change that. He spent most of his childhood in London, and one of his close local friends was on copy. It was simple enough, “you guys should meet.”
Gyles Scott-Hayward was standing outside the Glassblower pub just off Piccadilly Circus with two pints in his hands. I did not realize at the time this would be a familiar site for the next two years, but the pub would be The Sydney Arms and some soccer would be played too.
In the early days, I was an eager weekly substitute in case one of the local guys dropped out. There were only ten spots to play and with the weather improving into spring, everyone was keen to hit the pitch.
I would keep my Thursday nights clear just in case I got the late text from Scotty that they needed an extra. Inevitably, the text would come and I’d be on the bike to Chelsea as excited to play soccer as a twelve year old.
The camaraderie on the Sydney Street pitch followed by a late pub night quickly became the focal point of my experience in London. I got knocked around the field, impressed by the physicality of the English players!
I then limped my way down to pub and got to know some of the most kind and entertaining guys I have ever met. They accepted this Yankee with open arms, as eager to talk NFL as I was EPL.
Next thing I knew, I was attending weddings, events and causal pub nights with this core group of guys. It dawned on me that once again, in a new city, on a new continent, soccer had helped shape my life experience.