Written By: Eliot Ben-Ner
Pictures were taken By: Karen McCullough
The pathway to the top can be unexpected, but it is never an easy road. Sometimes greatness can come from the wildest places it can unlock dreams that we didn’t even know existed. This game brings the entire planet together; we may come from different places and speak different languages, but our hearts beat as one. It is our voice, and our sound it’s the way we talk to the world. Sometimes the game’s most significant and iconic figures, the greatest players in the world, come from the most obscure situations imaginable. Every player has their own story; that doesn’t make any sense, but it’s still their story. How can the greatest player in history be a 5’6 kid from Rosario Argentina? Sometimes the most prominent stars come from unexpected places; even the greatest the game has seen faces challenges questions their belief and ability to do something extraordinary. Every player deserves to have their story told no matter how dramatic it may be. What if we never knew Leo Messi? The game of football would have suffered. Sometimes the attention of women’s football gets slighted and ignored maybe it’s a sexist point of view perhaps it’s something different there are tremendous players where ever you look I have seen one just 30 minutes away. No matter what city there are stars around us, all we have to do is look. Maybe they don’t want our attention, maybe their quiet they keep to themselves maybe they are working when no one is watching? They can be someone we would least expect, but they deserve the attention even if they don’t ask for it. Giving recognition to men’s football is something the media continually does even I am a victim of that. The challenges women face regularly are significantly more than men. In the path of women’s football, they have to deal with things not many of us can begin to understand the battles they must endure, but we need to shine our light in their direction they’re stories that deserve to be told that aren’t. There could be a lack of interest, but together we will change the game and the narrative that is attached to the women’s game. The pipeline of Minnesota Girls high school soccer is one of the most desirable locations of visionary talent the skills and ability some of these girls have is mind-blowing. There are girls from all over Minnesota that play at an exceptionally high-level. Girls that display consistency, excitement, leadership, and team connectivity. Girls with the ability to deliver on the biggest stage, the future of talent in this state has no limits; the pipeline is something that will continue to grow as the years go by. I realize it is something that I’m apart of now, and I take this as responsibility, something I’m genuinely proud of. I may be just a writer, but I believe that these girls deserve to have their spotlight and their story told by someone that’s fighting for them, someone that wants to give them the platform these girls deserve. They add beauty to the game of football that sometimes the outside world doesn’t appreciate, but they matter! They deserve to be on the pitch, not in the kitchen. These experiences have helped me understand, and in return, I will give these girls the opportunity for their high school careers to be told history is history no matter who is making it. Last season I worked with one of the most talented girls soccer players in the state. Maya Hansen was a star at Burnsville high school before becoming a rising star at South Dakota State the reigning Summit League Freshman of the year has the dribbling ability of Messi and the range of Cristiano. She gave me my first opportunity to do this. It was difficult at times, but it was still a crucial moment. However, this season I worked on something much more compelling someone that is incredibly special. Kayla Anderson may be the greatest player in the history of White Bear Lake. The more I watched her more in love, I was with the way she plays and carries herself. When I knew I was going to do this project, I needed someone that genuinely loves this game; it may just be the air she breathes. I was given almost unrestricted access throughout she didn’t need to provide me with that, she is a genuinely good kid who loves football. Her career was historical, but it didn’t come without its set of challenges. This was an unlikely setting for a historic career, as any. Others seemed like stars from the beginning; meanwhile, Kayla had to work and develop to be given a chance to prove herself; it’s hard to imagine A young woman who scored 66 goals in her career once was told she was not good enough. She was once on the brink of losing everything, even belief as she was once cut from her club team. The career she had almost didn’t happen. On April 10th Kostas Manalos scored a header in the second leg of Roma’s Champions League quarterfinals over Barcelona. After being 4-1 down, Roma wasn’t expected to stand a chance, but they never lost belief as they made it the Champions League Semi-final. Roma has risen from their ruins was the commentary on that goal, capturing what they did. Much like Manolas on that night in Rome, Kayla has risen from the ruins of her own story; the name Kayla Anderson will mean something one day.
Chapter 1: “Kayla Dream BIG”
Football connects every aspect of the world and Society; there is a family aspect to it; that’s what makes our game so special. It’s one of the few things that can bring the entire world together through hardship pain and even glory. Some people are born with natural ability. This can guide them through the game. Unlike the set of challenges that most of us must endure reaching the high level we all aim for. That’s not to say they didn’t have to work at it, but some players have the gift, while others have to fight through everything to achieve greatness and excel in the beautiful game. In 2001 football was at its highest level with iconic stories and moments throughout Europe and the world. The Era you’re born into can define you as a player; it is those experiences and moments that push you. On October 15th, 2001 was the birth of a football phenomenon. A woman that would go on to be a leader, a teammate, and a friend. She became one of the greatest high school players we have ever seen. A player that would make history repeatedly over a decade later but maybe didn’t get the credit she deserved. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Kayla Anderson entered this world of football in the golden age. It may not have been from her first steps, but she became a part of the community. She entered this world of passion and beauty. It almost seems like this was always meant to happen. So many iconic moments were occurring so frequently even if she didn’t realize it, but amazing moments were happening around her. Just shortly before that October day when Kayla Anderson was born. Bayern Munich captured their fourth European Cup title-winning a penalty shootout against Valencia as the German giants reclaimed their places among football’s elites. Largely behind the brilliant performance by Legendary German keeper Oliver Kahn saving three penalties that helped Bayern Capture Europe. Meanwhile, a loaded France team that featured Henry, Zidane, Patrick Vieira, Lillian Thurman, and many others conquered Europe for the second time. As they beat an Italy side that had my hero Francesco Totti, Paulo Maldini and Alessandro Del Piero in the European championships with a David Trezeguet goal winning goal in the 105th minute proved to be the difference as France got their hands on the trophy. Then That summer, footballing Legend Zinedine Zidane joined the Los Blancos of Real Madrid for 72 million euros from Italian Giants Juventus. Football was moving at light speed. Kayla hadn’t quite been introduced to this world yet, but it was on the horizon. She hadn’t become a high school star yet, but it was coming one day she would get that opportunity even though she didn’t know it. Just a few months after her birthday, I experienced something significant this isn’t necessarily about me, but the two of us connected in June of 2019. Almost exactly 18 years after I reached a level of happiness and joy that cannot be explained. Roma captured Italy for the first time since 1984. The Roma Legend Francesco Totti lifted the scudetto in the Eternal City. I ran into the streets with joy; it was an Indescribable feeling that took me to tears. Roma was Champions once again. These events took place just a few months apart between the title and Kayla’s birth. While this is Kayla Anderson’s story, not mine, the irony of everything all connects. In June, I was in the Eternal City on vacation the same year my collaboration with Kayla began. I was in the Roma airport when I started preparing the project. We may not have known each other well other than our brief conversations, but both of these events would have importance in football. I ended up becoming a writer against the odds, and Kayla ended up making history with White Bear Lake High School on and off the pitch. She has a future and potential to reach unbelievable heights; this is something that once was an improbable journey, but it had to start somewhere. Kayla Anderson fell in love with the game before she could walk; she had it in her from day one. When she was on her own in her thoughts, she wasn’t thinking about boys’ music or school, she was thinking of the beautiful game. Even though those things would become vital to her throughout her life in her core, it was faith and football; her heart skipped a beat for this game that connects all. It truly connects the world she was about to become something incredibly special even if no one could see it. The love she felt for the game at a young age was fundamental in her progressing into what she is now. She had the desire to become a leader, a team player someone that people could rely on in big moments. She wanted to be a soccer player with a chance to be a star, but mostly she just wanted to play; she felt at peace when the ball was at her feet; it was home. Kayla Anderson came from a religious background; this is something in particular that is hugely important to her. Her faith, belief, and relationship with God are part of who she is. Kayla Anderson believes in her ability, and love for the game comes from God. It is what God has given her passion for, and it’s something that continues to be important to her to this day. She believes that she can achieve anything she puts her mind to because of what God did for her and her family. We all have different methods, and unique therapeutic ways to that push us for her; it was her faith. It was more than just God though it was about what came from within. Kayla and her family moved to Minnesota when she was just three years old. As a three-year-old, she may not have been totally aware of everything, but it was a significant moment. However, she would find a home in the cold Winters of Minnesota and became someone important to girls’ soccer and the growth of the game in Minnesota. They’re always moments that define players; it’s hard to say what was the significance of moving to Minnesota at such a young age, but it ended up being important she certainly made the best of it. She made a home here, she developed here, and she grew up here and began something special. It is hard to say how much impact this had on a young girl’s childhood. Would she have become historic? And made the impact she had? Had she stayed in Chicago, would she have ended up being or doing something else? It’s hard to say, but I have a feeling she probably would have had success regardless she was able to be become impactful because of her work ethic. Coming to a place where she learned about herself and others, maintaining stability and consistency as a player certainly helped her growth on and off the pitch. She became someone that may be one of the most humble human beings in this sport. She is a world-class talent she would have reasons not to be in this industry certainly the most humble person I’ve ever encountered. Everything seems to happen for a reason, and moving to Minnesota may have been the reason that made the difference; it’s hard to say for certain without having gone through it, but everything seemed to align in Minnesota positively. Kayla wasn’t born with the Natural ability that was have seen in Leo Messi, Killian Mbappe, Ada Hegerberg, or even the natural ability that other Minnesota stars have like Former Burnsville star Maya Hansen or Visitation’s Kathrine Jones. Kayla had to work incredibly hard to get to the level she now operates at. Her faith and her upbringing have factored into her success so far in her young career. Soccer runs in her family. Her brothers and Dad played soccer in high school; there wasn’t necessarily an expectation to deliver, but she did anyway. It may not have been a massive deal, but It certainly could have played a role in her success as this game being as important to her as it has been. Does her ability come from the fact that her family played? Maybe? maybe not, but the interest may not have been there otherwise in and beneath her thoughts and feelings. The family aspect is undeniable. However, Kayla’s career almost didn’t happen. When Kayla was a young kid, she wanted to pursue a career in gymnastics, but her parents did not have the funds to afford it, it was just too expensive. Kayla has a way about her that I think she would have been great in whatever she did base on what I know about her and the conversations we have had I certainly think so. She could have been special in anything I may not know her that well, and I certainly didn’t know her back then, but she is a determined young woman who would have found a way. The greatest gymnast in history is from the country my dad was born. I am very proud of Nadia Commeci; she was a superhero and opened doors for American gymnastics. Had Kayla had the opportunity to pursue that sport and had the success, it would have been gratifying watching that from a distance. She could have been a great gymnast, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Had Kayla participated in gymnastics, instead, this story and this Book may have never been written, or at least this story would have been about someone else. She would have just been Kayla Anderson famous American gymnast. For our sport, I’m glad football was the sport she ended up with; otherwise, we never would have gotten the opportunity to work together. Kayla always has been a big fan of women’s soccer in America. She admires several of the players that pushed her to a level that she is at now or at least trying to reach. She has looked up to Abby Wambach as she recalls seeing her play and perform at the Olympics and the World Cup. She also felt a special bond with Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe; they were among her favorites. Her uncle, at one point in time, did a photoshoot with Megan Rapinoe. One Christmas gift she received put her on the verge of tears utter joy and disbelief. Something that sort of compares to how I felt when Roma won the league title as a kid; I can imagine how she felt when she received this special gift. On a Christmas morning, one year, Kayla’s uncle gave her one of the pictures that had been taken with Megan Rapione. In addition to that, the picture had a signature from Megan Rapinoe herself, not only that, but the versatile midfielder who has become one of the best in history signed her signature with the phrase “Kayla dream big.” She cried; it is a message that has stuck with her throughout her career so far. This message, I believe, it gave her the mentality and the mental strength never to give up, especially when she had down moments in her career. Kayla wouldn’t be here without those moments; they ultimately helped her grow. There have been moments in her career in which she questioned everything; could she do this? That belief exists because of her faith, religion, and belief in God. Not to mention what Megan Rapinoe’s words did for her. She had Role Models within her family and within the national team. Every fan of the sport has their moment that gives us a reason to believe and admire. For Kayla Maybe it was the World Cup the Olympics or what Megan Rapinoe wrote to her, but all of us have those moments in this game that connects us with the world and the entire community. This is the biggest family in the world, and all the takes is one moment to ingratiate yourself into it. For me, it was the Roma title that still is one of the happiest moments of my entire life. For Kayla Megan Rapinoe’s picture and message changed how she looked at everything. I won’t speak for her, but that is without question one of the happiest moments of her life you can tell by the way she reacted the tears showed her love within the facet of the game. You have to be so touched by something in the football world to reach the point of tears and showing that kind of emotion, whether it is sadness, happiness, or joy. Every moment that comes with that, it became her Inspiration. She has the feeling within the women’s national teams growing up as young girls in America. Girls like Kayla view these women like superheroes. Everybody needs someone to push them or someone to aspire to be. Sometimes it’s a family member sometimes it’s a player. Businessmen Gary Vee said it best “ Do you know yourself or do aspire to be something that you might actually not be.” Kayla went through this even though her passion once came from her love for Gymnastics football was what she was after she is ment to play this game; it all happened for a reason. What she aspired to be changed into what she would become. True Inspirations come from a place in the heart in which you never want to quit. Morgan Brian is someone she resonates with because of the way she lives her life and her importance in faith and religion, something that is obviously very important to Kayla. She also admires Crystal Dunn’s versatility and mentality to play any position and be effective, something that Kayla can relate to with her versatility of her own. Her love of the game only continued to become stronger as she went through Elementary School. Her dream was always to play college soccer. Something she had to work incredibly hard to accomplish. Throughout her life, as she was going through different teams and improving as a player each passing day. She wanted to play College soccer put on that Jersey regardless of what team or color on her back and deliver on the biggest stage in the NCAA tournament or big spots. So she could show to everyone that ever doubted her that she could accomplish anything when she puts her mind to it.