Running after trains

“NO.”

“NO.”

“NO.”

“NO.”

“NO.”

[No reply]

“NO.”

“NO.”

“NO.”

[No reply]

[No reply]

“NO.”

is what I heard from FIFA for three months. No matter what contact I found, they slammed the door as soon as I explained my research. I’ve never heard “No” so many times, so consistently.

When I asked other sports federations for help, I heard the same thing.

“Just give up. FIFA is impossible.”

“You’re never going to get anything from FIFA.”

“FIFA! Hah! Their doors are shut. Don’t even try.”

It was discouraging.

Very, very discouraging.

I finally reached the end of my 90 days here in Europe with no complete data set. It was 11PM and I stared at the latest rejection email. It was time to go back to the United States.

But then for some reason, with no conscious effort, I saw my hands tap studentuniverse.com. I found their number. I opened up Skype. I called their number. And I changed my ticket to return 10 days later.

If someone had asked me, “What’s your plan from here?” I would have said, “I have no idea.”

If someone had asked me, “What happens when they check your passport?” I would have said, “I have no idea.”

A few hours later, I’m sitting on a train going from France to Switzerland. To get there, we pass through Lyon, France, before arriving in Genève, Switzerland. My ticket said that it was all one train so when everyone else got off at Lyon, I stayed on.

Then I realize something is terribly wrong.

Apparently it is the same train–except the front end splits off to go to Switzerland while the back end, where I am, stays in Lyon. That’s why everyone else got off.

DUH, Sophy.

I step off and start walking towards the front end. Then I start RUNNING. The train starts moving.

And I start SPRINTING.

The train was faster.

Another guy also made the same mistake as me. He’s shaking his head in disbelief and I’m shaking my head in disbelief, so naturally we become friends.

His name is Alex.

Alex is from the same city as me.

Nondescript shirt, nondescript shorts, backpacking bags, and scruffly scruff. We wait for the next train to Genève and start talking, and talking, and talking.

He tells me about his adventures traveling through Europe. I tell him about FIFA.

“You know, I’ve been trying to get information from FIFA but it’s impossible.”

I expect Alex to answer in the same way as the 30 people before him. A shrug, a “That’s too bad,” an “Oh well,” a “Yeah it is impossible.”

He did none of that.

Instead, Alex told me this.

“Sophy, this is going to be the best week of your summer. You tell yourself right now that this is going to be the best week of your summer.

“Because it’s already done. You already cracked FIFA. You don’t know how you’re going to do it but you already did it.

“You know how I know?

“I’ve done this, traveled through Europe, for 15 years, and no one ever runs after the train.

“You ran after the train.

“You obviously wouldn’t have run if you didn’t think there was a chance you could make it.”

I shrug. “True.”

“You wouldn’t be risking a massive fine and deportation if you didn’t already know you could break through FIFA.

“You’re going to be the one who did it. No one else can but you’re going to be the one who broke through their walls.”

Then he made me commit by writing it down. “That’s what makes the difference–writing it down.”

I’d heard that before and already did it. I make To Do lists instead of Goals or New Years Resolutions lists because saying “To Do” makes it that much more concrete.

So I start writing, “Meet FIFA…”

Alex challenges me again. “No no no.”

And he tells me what to write.

“Thank you for allowing me complete access to FIFA records, which has made my paper remarkable in many ways.”

A complete mindset shift. It was not a “To Do.” It was already done.

Corny, maybe. Extremely ambitious, definitely.

Remember, I had tried three MONTHS with no success, not even a smile or a maybe. Their doors were SHUT.

But impossible? Apparently not.

We part ways at Genève, he to Estonia or Austria or somewhere and I to Lausanne.

“On Friday, I expect an email from you telling me that you got all the information you need.”

On Thursday:

How did I do it?

I’m sitting in the Olympic Museum Library archives, scanning some documents. I remember what Alex told me.

And again, with no conscious effort, I pick up my phone and dial FIFA’s number.

I have no idea what I’m going to say this time that’s going to be any different from the hours and hours I’d spent trying so far.

But I dial the number anyway.

The phone rings twice.

“FIFA, [French]”

And suddenly I know exactly what to say.

We speak on the phone for 3 minutes.

At the end of the 3 minutes, I have full access to everything.

E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Hold on. Wait. Do you actually understand?

3 minutes. Everything.

I won’t tell you what I said because that’s for you to figure out. I will say that I was 100% honest. Besides, if you think that what I said during those 3 minutes is the point of this post, you’ve missed something fundamental.

Two days later, I’m standing on the field at FIFA headquarters.

So go make it happen.

In fact, it’s already done.

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2 thoughts on “Running after trains

  1. Aahhh, Sophy, you continue to inspire me. Here I was worrying early on a Saturday morning about how I am going to handle a tough year at work and 2 semesters of grad school carrying 9 and not 6 hrs…and still be alive and sane at the end of it. It’s all ready done…or I wouldn’t have committed to doing it…we all need such encounters along the way. I will write it down.

  2. So beautiful! I know Alex and he had me read this…what a great reminder and it works!! Many well wishes to you on your journey wherever you are now 🙂

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