There’s something special about this small West Virginia town, this small West Virginia school and, most important, the people of this town who never give up no matter the odds.
West Virginians, and especially Huntingtonians, are a genuine and warm people who welcomed me: an awkward kid with a funny accent and an even funnier name with my family from the Middle East over 34 years ago.
Despite moving to the Washington, D.C., area 21 years ago, I still follow the Thundering Herd and consider Huntington to be my hometown because of how we were welcomed as immigrants to our new nation by neighbors and friends in Huntington.
Soccer was mostly a foreign pastime back then, often played by immigrants and international students at Ritter Park and few others in loosely organized volunteer youth leagues and some high schools. I still fondly remember my years playing for what was then the Huntington High School Pony Express.
That same welcoming spirit that my family and I experienced in 1987 allowed Marshall to recruit globally despite its lack of proximity to major cities and despite the negative, false stereotypes often associated with Appalachia broadly and West Virginia specifically.
Monday night, as it has done before in football, the Thundering Herd shocked the nation and won the NCAA soccer national championship against all odds.
This is not a Cinderella story; this is the story of my hometown and its people, a town that has earned more than its fair share of Cinderella stories because of its people. We are Marshall!