Yesterday, Houston Dash defender Ella Masar tweeted out the link to a candid and inspirational interview she did with Purpose 2 Play. The feature was met with an immediate reaction of fans and teammates applauding her for her honesty and bravery.
And now my story is complete ... Unbelievable ... Thank you. https://t.co/p49fLkzUrN— Ella Masar (@emasar3) July 22, 2015
To most when we think of Masar, the word leader or fighter is synonymous. We see a player who steps into battle each game with a chip on her shoulder and the goal of earning three points for her club in whatever way needed.
Sports aren't always as simple as just sports, of course we can take from it what we want, a victory, draw or loss but there's a lot more that transpires after the final whistle. Masar has a level of compassion and forgiveness that at times can seem to be unrealistic but when she talks or it's put on display we're reminded of its actuality. There aren't many athletes who are willing to disclose what has occured in their personal lives for the sake of a story the way Masar did, a story people really needed hear. A sudden reminder that we aren't the only ones who battle issues, think we go into life alone and there's always love waiting in the end.
I recall the time I interviewed Masar last March, three weeks before the Dash inaugural season opener against Portland Thorns FC. I was 16, and it happened to be only the third phone interview I had done up until that point. I can distinctively remember my nerves, practicing and re-working the questions I would ask. Just a week prior I had canceled the interview just before its slated time due to a family emergency. Masar was understanding and offered her support in the matter. There was this warmth in her midwestern drawl that made it easy from the start, as she commented on beating the sweltering Houston heat during training camp and the task of living out a suitcase, yet excited at the opportunity to make roots in Houston. She joked about never wanting to play outside mid again because of the amount running it required but still willing to do it again if need be. There was an excitement in her tone as she spoke about growing something special from scratch with the Dash. It didn't feel like an interview when we talked about her desire to score against Nadine Angerer in the upcoming franchise opener, after hitting one off the bar against her during her stint with PSG. And when she humbly deflected my notion that her presence and vocal leadership could put her in line for Houston's vacant captaincy, stating one of the more senior players deserved it, a role ultimately given to her now wife Erin McLeod.
There's a reason why Masar is so beloved by fans and media alike. From scoring the first goal in Dash history culminated with her famous goal celebration to Wednesday's beautiful story about her upbringing, she means so much more to the league than just a name and number attributed to the Houston Dash. She's become a role model anyone can look up to and the player any opposing fan can't help but to root for. Her passion, strength and determination can all be found at the heart of the Dash. Masar's positive impact on and off the pitch symbolize what the NWSL is all about.