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A Unique Club
July 2nd: ‘European Tour Eve’
Cleats. Check. Gloves. Check. Shinguards. Check. Laundry detergent in a carry on guaranteeing confiscation by TSA. Check.
There are only so many things you can do to prepare for a month of soccer 4,000 miles away from home. The night before the trip is spent hardly in a deep sleep as millions of questions such as I wonder how the guys will welcome a last minute addition of a player? and How did this opportunity even arise? race through my mind.
Let’s fast forward to July 3rd 8pm
A call from Laura, our trusted go-to-girl for any and all questions, rings my phone and asks if I had arrived at the gate yet, and tells me to make my way over to the group. Roughly 25 guys who I have met once or twice before during the club’s trip to Carolina embrace me with the standard hand shakes and “daps” as Lil’ Weezy would say. All of them introduce themselves again; I remember maybe 3 people’s names.
Rewind to late June
Luck and timing, a statement frequently used by my Dad, never made more sense to me than right now as I type this. In a matter of literally 5 days I went from being in the redundant grind of a 3rd choice keeper of the Carolina Railhawks to being thrust into this chance to travel across the world. While Bridges FC was in Carolina I was invited to play with them in Charlotte and again against my own club on their last match of the trip (which was a satisfying 1-0 win by Bridges FC, might I add). Coach’s last words to me after the match were “Laura will be in touch to set everything up.” And that was that. 20 phone calls and 10 faxes later, Laura had made it happen and I was on my way to Europe in the most spontaneous fashion I could imagine.
Present time July 22 10pm (Cory & Nemanja’s Birthday)
See, to the non-footballer, it would seem that the constant schedule of games versus the highest level clubs in Sweden and Denmark would drain us and beat us down. Don’t get me wrong, it did at points (though using that as an excuse would result in a punishment from Coach I don’t even want to imagine) but on trips this long away from home, it is the little things that need to be put into perspective. Whose turn is it on dishes (surely not the goalkeepers’ of course)? Who left their laundry in the washer? Who stole my sliders? Whose turn to make the Gatorade? Without proper management of the players these are SURE things to wreak havoc in the locker room (or maglarp pensionat in our case), I have seen it happen and it ruins any cohesiveness instantly. So a shout out to the young bucks, well in boys. I and everyone else appreciate it – trust me.
It is tough to describe the trip thus far in words, a total cliche to say, but it is true. The 25 guys I met as strangers are now my teammates, friends, and more importantly my boys. Never have I felt more welcome and comfortable in a new surrounding in my life. I felt like I had been training with them the past year by the 4th day. This is not only a commendation to them, but also to the coaches and direction that the club is going. The one thing that stood out to me the most is that Coach, Rob, Laura and Lee (the female Chef Emeril) always held the players’ best interests first. I think we all (the players) could see this and they all instantly earned our respect. This combination is the recipe for success on and off the field now, and will guarantee it for the future.
Well in boys, and THANK YOU!