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Life Lessons From the Biggest Names in Soccer

There are few unifying forces greater than soccer — or as it's known throughout the majority of the world, football. Whether within the boundaries of a small town or throughout an entire nation, soccer brings together people from all walks of life to root for a common goal. And it's not just professional soccer that elicits powerful emotions. The simple act of kicking a ball around a grassy field with some friends can produce equal amounts of unbridled joy.

On top of being just plain fun, playing soccer fuels the competitive spirit, reminds us of the value of teamwork, and strengthens both the body and mind. As 32 countries gather to compete in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, let these enlightening quotes serve as a reminder of what becomes possible when you combine perseverance with passion. The lessons that these legendary players have learned throughout their careers — from the celebrated Pelé and modern mega-star Cristiano Ronaldo, to U.S. icons such as Mia Hamm and Megan Rapinoe — extend far beyond the beautiful game they play.

Talent without working hard is nothing.
— Cristiano Ronaldo, five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or

Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.
— Pelé, three-time FIFA World Cup champion

I've never scored a goal in my life without getting a pass from someone else.
— Abby Wambach, FIFA World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist

The wonderful thing about soccer is, a football is a perfectly round object, and it doesn't make mistakes. The player using it makes mistakes. And the more you use it, the less mistakes you make.
— Craig Johnston, former Liverpool midfielder and designer of the Adidas Predator football boot

Take your victories, whatever they may be, cherish them, use them, but don't settle for them.
— Mia Hamm, two-time FIFA World Cup champion two-time Olympic gold medalist

You can overcome anything, if, and only if, you love something enough.
— Lionel Messi, seven-time winner of the Ballon d'Or

Always work hard, never give up, and fight until the end because it's never really over until the whistle blows.
— Alex Morgan, Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIFA World Cup champion

The smartest thing I did is I never gave up.
— Ivan Rakitić, Croatian midfielder for Sevilla FC

The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when nobody else is watching.
— Anson Dorrance, University of North Carolina women's soccer head coach

Real change lies within all of us. It is in the choices we make every day. It's in how we talk, who we hire, and what we permit others to say in our presence. It's in reading more, thinking more, considering a different perspective.
— Megan Rapinoe, Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIFA World Cup champion

Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.
— Johan Cruyff, three-time winner of the Ballon d'Or

We must always set the bar high, otherwise we do not progress.
— Kylian Mbappé, 2018 FIFA World Cup champion

All good athletes make mistakes; the great ones learn to make that mistake only once.
— Raul Lopez, right-back for Deportivo Toluca F.C.

Once you bid farewell to discipline you say goodbye to success.
— Sir Alex Ferguson, former manager of Manchester United

Coaches can give you information, they can give you guidelines, and they can put you in a position. But the only person who can truly make you better is you.
— Brandi Chastain, two-time FIFA World Cup champion two-time Olympic gold medalist

Photo credit: artisteer/ iStock

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About the Author
Bennett Kleinman
Bennett is a staff writer at Optimism as well as a freelance comedy writer. He's based in New York City.
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