The universal language | Thorns FC’s Emily Menges talks about what playing for PTFC for Peace means to her
Editor’s Note: Emily Menges is entering her ninth season with the Portland Thorns. Selected Best XI in 2016 and selected NWSL Second XI in 2017 and 2018, the veteran defender was part of the 2017 NWSL Championship squad as well as NWSL Shield winning squads in 2016 and 2021. Menges is also the founder and editor of Bel Esprit, a literary journal here in Portland. We asked him to share his thoughts on the importance of playing in the PTFC for Peace Special Charity Match on April 27 to benefit UNICEF’s efforts to support those affected by war in Ukraine (6pm PT, TICKETS – Free with donation encouraged, ThornsFC.com).
Every day in soccer, my teammates and I try to do a few things: put the proper weight on our passes, pass on the right foot, always be an option, check our shoulders, live without shoulders, push the line, get into our zones, hitting the target, changing points, spinning in the pockets, forcing wide, etc.
Whether these things mean anything to you or not, to us, these are the little things we focus on to become better players and a successful team in our microcosm that is the Thorns and Timbers organization. I’ve written before about how important this focused work is for our individual and collective well-being, especially how every day my teammates and I can show up to football and, for a few hours a day, let the football guide us as the world outside Providence Park slips away.
It is a place to escape the stressors of our lives.
It’s a place to be free and have fun.
However, it is a luxury that is not available to everyone.
As I write this, Ukrainian children and families are being attacked, missiles are bombing their homes and towns, ordinary citizens are taking up arms to protect their nation from neighboring world powers, and millions of people are being left in unknown countries with an uncertain future. In other words, football doesn’t seem very important right now.
However, maybe you didn’t understand a single sentence in my opening paragraph, but you don’t need to know what “living in the pocket” means to understand the universal language that is ” soccer “. Just as football is our daily sanctuary, this sport has the ability to act as an anchor for people around the world, a small glimpse of joy in the midst of a terrible reality, or perhaps to provide the smallest spark of hope for the millions of Ukrainians living in a nightmare.
“Nearly 3.7 million [now about 5 million] Ukrainians have been displaced by the ongoing war, and more than half of these refugees are children. In an effort to give them a safe space to play, Barca’s academy[in Warsaw] invited them to join.
About a young Ukrainian refugee, “Football saves him from this war, helps him to make new friends in a new country… his father stayed to fight in Ukraine… He integrates well despite the barrier of language. Football is an international language.
A journalist at the Polish border “talked about how the site was set up by the Polish government and voluntary services” and then “a smiling young girl with a soccer ball came into the picture”.
“At Legia, we have hosted youth teams from Ukraine and set up football schools for refugee children.”
Football in Portland has always provided an inclusive home for everyone, a community that encourages talking about what we believe in, an outlet for passion and a beacon of hope for those trying to change the world.
On April 27, the Thorns and Timbers proudly come together and use the universal language of football to join the global effort in support of Ukraine.