When Bobby Wood was just 14, he departed the United States for Germany to pursue his dreams as a professional soccer player, putting him in unfamiliar surroundings far away from his upbringing in Hawaii and California.
It was there that Wood said he first became acutely aware of the different life experiences he led as an Asian-American, which he discussed on the latest episode of Extratime presented by AT&T 5G as part of the ongoing Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
"After I moved to California and then after a year in California I moved to Germany, I started realizing I am a little bit different," Wood told hosts Andrew Wiebe and Charlie Davies. "That was a little bit hard to deal with, especially being in Germany by myself. I was 14 and I didn't understand it fully. But what I learned is just being proud of who you are and loving yourself. I think that's the most important [thing], just accepting who you are. I think once you embrace that, then nothing will bother you."
Now 29 and plying his trade in MLS with Real Salt Lake, Wood's embracing his status as a role model for young API athletes who might look to him for inspiration.
"Sometimes [being a role model] doesn't hit just because I kind of don't see myself like that," Wood said. "But I try to help out as much as I can. I think for kids, just be true to yourself, really. Just love the culture that's behind you and don't be ashamed of it. Growing up Asian in Germany was always a little bit strange, especially because in the South of Germany, they're pretty old school and it's just different. You get looked at a lot and I wasn't used to that first."
The conversation was part of the “Soccer For All Speaker Series,” a season-long program conducted by MLS WORKS to amplify inclusive voices and perspectives.
You can listen to the full interview on the latest episode of Extratime here.