If I wrote about each and every taxi driver in Berlin that I encounter, I would end up with several volumes of books. Not all of them have an interesting story though, and some are not even that friendly or interested in carrying out a conversation. Others, like Serkan, are absolutely fascinating.
Born and raised in Berlin from Turkish descent, Serkan got involved in the local Turkish football (soccer) club from an early age, despite objections from his parents. He soon discovered that football was far more important to him than academics, and took it very seriously. The physical discipline of the sport and the challenging demands on the psyche were his passion and world, as any other serious athlete will attest to. By the time Serkan was 24, he was well established in the league, and caught the eye of a talent scout. Recruited to one of the professional teams based in Istanbul with an offer he could not refuse, Serkan packed his bags and left Berlin without blinking twice.
Life in Istanbul as a professional football player was the ultimate dream come true. The money was beyond his wildest imagination, with access to everything possible. His parents, however, did not consider this a real profession nor a dignified one, and hence were not supportive at all. They would have rather seen me clean toilets or collect garbage, he said sadly. To them football was not work nor was being a professional player a real job. Though his parents' attitude broke his heart, Serkan continued to play for the next four years in Istanbul until tragedy struck and injury ended his career abruptly.
Returning to Berlin devastated and unemployed, the football player had no idea what to do with the rest of life, since movement was limited. So it came to pass that he landed in the taxi business. He has since married and has two beautiful children, and much to his delight, his son is passionate about football. From professional football player to coach, the transition was easy, and Serkan wanted to support his son's love for the game 100%. I own my cab and my time, and this allows me to be there for my children when they come home from school. I still play just for fun, but am no longer able or allowed to train seriously more than twice a week. But I am there for my son and that is al that matters.
Trading a football for fatherhood and perhaps a career in coaching was not a bad deal after all.