WASHINGTON, July 3, 2014 – Tim Howard, the defender on the US World Cup soccer team, is a very interesting person. From his beard and bald head to his strong, hard to pin ethnic look, to his incredible skill on the soccer field, he has the attention of the media, and fans, new and old alike.
Add to that that he is an incredible role model for millions of children around the world that like to kick the brazuca around, and it does not get much better.
The World Cup defender had 16 saves giving soccer the best performance of any goalie in any game ever. The previous record was 13 by Peru’s Ramon Quiroga in 1978. He also scored a goal. Playing for Everton, his English Premier League team, Howard kicked a ball catching the opposing Bolton goalie by surprise. Ever the nice guy, and good sportsman, Howard told The Guardian he felt bad for the opposing keeper.
“You never want to see that happen,” he said. “It’s not nice, it’s embarrassing.”
Howard is from North Brunswick, New Jersey the son of an African-American father and a Hungarian mother. He has a deep faith saying in a 2006 interview with Campus Crusade for Christ “The most important thing in my life is Christ. He’s more important to me than winning or losing or whether I’m playing or not. Everything else is just a bonus.”
Howard is married to wife of ten years Laura and they have two young children ages 3 and 4. The did not travel to the World Cup as they felt it was too far for the boys, but she watched from their Memphis, Tennessee home.
Howard is well tattooed. Famously well tattooed and he is not too shy to share his physique or ink for a good cause, including PETA’s Ink not Mink campaign and a charity calendar for the Everton in the Community club. Howard plays for the Everton Football Club, located in Liverpool, Merseyside, England. The 35 year-old Howard has been playing soccer most of his life.
At the age of nine, he began experiencing facial tics when he was anxious, and that led to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, like always putting his clothing on in the same way. With adolescence, from the ages of nine to 15, the tics came in waves that Howard described to Neurology Now as “this chaos of different tics, and they were pretty strong.”
His mother saw soccer as a positive outlet for her son.
“I believe there’s a certain yin and yang to things,” she told the New Yorker. “If you have a disorder like this, then you also have a gift that you’ve been given and you just try to learn what it is. Soccer was his gift. It provided an escape from Tourette’s — it absorbed that energy.”
Howard started playing as a way to work through the tics that affect him. He does not hide his Tourette’s, explaining that his disease affects him with uncontrollable physical movements, not the more known “swearing” effect that less than 10% of sufferers have, but that most people associate with the disease.
Howard feels that it is important to let children know that you can have Tourette’s and still reach goals saying “I see myself as a positive example that Tourette syndrome does not have to be an illness. It’s just a condition, which still allows anyone to fulfill their dreams.”
Tourette’s is a neurological disorder that can manifest in repetitive movements, sounds or, in some, the vocal swearing. In a 2013 interview with Spiegel Online, Howard explained that the bigger the game, the moment, the pressure, the more his tics “flare”.
“I’ve never counted [how many tics I have in a game. It happens all the time, without any warning, and it increases the nearer an important game draws. It always occurs more when I am particularly nervous.”
Howard has explained that when the ball is down the field, he lets his twitches go and does not suppress them. However, when an attack is being set up — which happened over and again on Tuesday — his muscles miraculously calm. “I have no idea how I do it,” he said. “Not even my doctors can explain it to me. It’s probably because at that moment my concentration on the game is stronger than the Tourette’s syndrome.”
At 35, Howard has said this may be his last World Cup saying it is a tournament filled by 20-somethings. He will continue with the premier league, The Everton F.C.
Out of all his accomplishments he’s most proud that he didn’t “allow myself to be restricted by Tourette’s syndrome.”
“One of the biggest things I can do [for Tourette’s awareness] is be in the public eye,” he told Neurology Now. “I’m on television, ticcing and twitching. I think that’s kind of cool.”