American soccer spent a good chunk of the 20th century in the wilderness. So American soccer fans (all 37 of us) applauded the rare careers of players like John O'Brien, who made a name for himself with Dutch powerhouse Ajax Amsterdam in the 1990s. He was a trailblazer.
Perhaps "trailblazer" is not the right word here... for Eddy Hamel preceded O'Brien by a good 70 years. And it gets better for American Jewish soccer fans (all five of us). Hamel was Jewish.
Hamel, who was born in New York City, made his way to Amsterdam as a teenager. From there, he joined Ajax's youth squad and made his way to the first team, playing over 100 matches for the club. In fact, he is considered the first Jew ever to play for Ajax — a club with supposed Jewish roots.
And then it got worse (for all of us). Much, much worse. At the onset of World War II, Hamel, who did not have his American passport, was rounded up by the Germans and sent to Auschwitz. He did not make it out.
His life is now a faint memory to but a select few. But to us, it should be honored and celebrated. By American soccer fans. By Jews. By all of us.