Nos da un gran gusto ver a los miembros de la familia pamboleando con sus respectivos equipos. Mientras Jogo anotaba otro gol (se lo anularon debido a un fuera de lugar) contra el equipo nacional sub-17 de Estados Unidos en Florida (tercer juego consecutivo anotando), Johan tuvo una asistencia en el amistoso (debido al paro por la fecha FIFA) del FC Porto. Para culminar bien el día, el tercer Jogo se despachó con la cuchara grande y anotó un “hat trick”. Los goles y las asistencias siempre serán el resultado del juego de conjunto y a veces hasta circunstanciales pero nunca se darán en exceso; hay que celebrarlos mientras se pueda. A final de cuentas, nos fascina que estén disfrutando el “deporte de las masas” tal y como debe de jugarse con alegría y disciplina. Y por cierto, ya falta un día menos para reunir a la familia.
It’s with mixed feelings that we write this post after learning that the Development Academy (DA) program suspended operations indefinitely. There’s a glimpse of hope as a successor program was announced by MLS almost immediately after the news broke out; however, the lack of details disclosed on it could be uncertain for current and future families seeking a new football league/team/club. Thus, at the writing of this post, the uncertainty of the new program (let’s call it DA version 2.0) prevents us from having an objective opinion about it. Therefore, we will focus on the known and now defunct DA program (DA going forward).
As some would say, DA was not perfect but its successor won’t be either. It’s human nature to complain about many things in life as a way to try to enhance/optimize them and maybe for excellent reasons; sometimes that’s how we drive change. Like everything else though, there isn’t a solution that fits everyone’s needs and DA was definitely in that category. Since DA was costing families money (lots in some cases), parents (and players) would naturally feel entitled to more value than what perhaps they were receiving. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.
In our case, we inherited the DA setup by virtue of having joined the FC Dallas (FCD) environment prior. Therefore, the benefits or disadvantages of being a member of DA were somehow diluted by virtue of being with the club first. DA did a lot for the Gómez boys (more good than bad). In the end, it gave them a more realistic platform to “the dream” which they didn’t have before. For us parents, it provided countless memories.
Neither one of the boys will play in DA v2.0 anymore so why do we care? Easy, we care because one of the objectives of this site is to share information for football families. We would have liked to have all this information available when we were at crossroads with some of these decisions. Ultimately, we also want the betterment of the sport in this country. Equally important, we do have a daughter who plays the sport at a competitive level. Note: We typically exclude her from most football related posts for two reasons: age and love for the game. Although she’s probably the most technically gifted of all the three siblings, her love of the game isn’t quite there (yet) AND in this particular case, she never experienced the DA setup given her age. Below, we try to break down some of the pros and cons that DA (from an FCD parent’s perspective) provided for us. First the pros:
When Johan joined FCD, the club already participated in TEPAL (Texas Pre-Academy League), a US Club Soccer sanctioned league. For this league, FCD required training five times a week (as opposed to twice a week with Johan’s previous club: Solar). The increased training frequency was instrumental in Johan’s development; it soon increased to six times a week during his U14 year (when his team -01s- joined DA). Although we had to commute to Frisco for training (45 miles – 90 minutes with traffic- each way), training was worth the extra time and miles. Johan was being coached and evaluated by not only FCD staff but U.S. Soccer local scouts for inclusion to U.S. Soccer local/national training centers and camps. Jogo, two years later went through the same process except, he never played TEPAL.
Our traveling was not limited to/from practices. In TEPAL, the team traveled for games twice a month within the the state of Texas and would play against local clubs (Andromeda, Solar, Texans), Houston (Dynamo, Rush), San Antonio (Classics Elite), and Austin (Lonestar). Once the team moved to DA, most of the TEPAL teams joined DA and new ones (out of state) joined our conference. As a result, the travel now included Colorado teams (Rush, Real Colorado, Rapids) and Sporting Kansas City. In TEPAL, all the out of town trips were via bus; once the team started traveling to Colorado and Kansas, the team started flying. Similarly, DA provided the opportunity to attend two (fall/winter) and (spring/summer) showcases to play different teams from across the nation. At the time, the spring/summer showcase always took place in Frisco which was convenient. Additional showcases included futsal which both boys loved.
The competition in TEPAL was very good. In fact, some of the best competition the FCD 01s ever faced was out of San Antonio (Classics Elite) which unfortunately never made it to DA. In the end, most of these clubs eventually joined DA but some good talent was definitely left behind. The state of Texas is loaded with talent but when DA added “neighboring” out-of-state clubs, league competition definitely improved. Also, the showcases were always packed with parents (at the younger ages), scouts/agents (at the older ages) and of course, coaches/players. A football social networking heaven. These showcases offered the opportunity to play equally talented teams from across the country. In their first year, the FCD’s 01 DA team, ranked #1 at the time, played LA Galaxy ranked #2 at the time (rankings are always subjective). In an extremely competitive game FCD defeated LA Galaxy with Johan scoring this goal:
The FCD 01 DA would go on to record the first (and only) undefeated DA season in the club’s history. Anyway, all this travel (at FCD) had ZERO cost for the families/players.
In TEPAL, the team traveled by bus a couple of times a month and parents paid FCD for the trips (about $60/player). In DA, that was no longer the case for either bus or airplane trips. The coaching, the uniforms, the fields, and the travel fees (associated with DA) were all covered. The only cost associated with watching Johan play was the expense incurred as a family to attend the games (and filming). Even then, when we couldn’t attend the games, all the games were recorded or streamed (or both).
When the games were not streamed, all it took to watch DA games (albeit delayed a few days) was a request to the team manager. For the Gómez’s, DA made it convenient to watch the boys’ games, we no longer had to attend games live and much less record the games ourselves. The addition of the DA games helped enrich our YouTube channel: theGomezway. Most of that content is unlisted. As a side note, we heard this season FCD realized that families were using these tapes to showcase their players and the requests for film now require academy director approval. It makes some sense; honestly, we were always given full access to video without any restrictions. We are extremely grateful for that. Either way, the exposure by streamed or recorded games provided yet a different platform for additional player publicity; some parents/families eventually realized its huge impact.
National team exposure:
Whenever the DA games (showcase mostly) were streamed, the number of viewers was significantly large. In our case, we learned of agents, scouts, remote family members who were able to view, enjoy, and assess the boys’ performance thanks to these streamed games. Similarly, the DA’s database of recorded games could easily be accessed by some of these professionals interested in youth games. In the end, it wasn’t necessary for families to build a football library as the film was easily accessible online. The DA showcases were open season in terms of talent for national team scouts who were always in attendance. It was partially at those showcases where both of the boys gained more attention with the national team staff. Thank you DA and FCD!!
As you can read from above, DA required a lot of player (and family) commitment (cons below). However, the league was setup to reward individuals and teams (with end of season awards). The boys were recipients of several accolades (team and individual) during their DA membership and those incentivized them to continue improving. The one below is probably the most significant as both were on the same award simultaneously. The effects of a pat in the back for anybody (more so for a young player) are underrated. Words and actions are very motivational.
Not everything was rosy with DA. For almost every advantage I listed above, there’s at least one counter-point. Here are some of the cons:
Although it was very beneficial to train more frequently, the body (without proper care) eventually feels the wear and tear which normally leads to more injuries. Unfortunately, most of these DA clubs were not setup to provide the medical attention needed for these players who underwent a long season with a rigorous training regime. Medical care was typically left up to parents. In our case, we always tried to be very proactive regarding the boys’ health and nutrition and thankfully, neither struggled much with injuries. Ultimately, it IS a contact sport and that can’t be prevented. There were other players who were not as fortunate. Medical negligence influenced their performance and in some cases cut their football careers short. To be fair, the six times a week training wasn’t necessarily a mandate by DA but the organization didn’t frown upon it either. For an organization that emphasized player safety, training six times a week never seemed to be scrutinized and/or challenged.
At the younger ages (U15 and below), DA rosters are usually not impacted as much with injuries (equivalent playing time plays a role). Also, the game is more pure than at the older ages where street smartness and hormones comes into play. Statistically, the frequency and severity of injuries increases as players age until they become professionals. Player injuries ultimately impact the quality and sometimes the results of matches. By the end of the season, making a run for the DA championship seemed more of a battle for the survival of the fittest (deeper benches) than the team playing the better football. Johan’s team made two of the last three DA finals. Injuries, as part of the regular game as they may be, in some cases became a huge financial burden on families and unfortunately, DA (or the club) didn’t make it known to families that secondary medical insurance was available to assist with medical costs.
At FCD, cost was minimal to play DA but that wasn’t the case at other local clubs. We can’t imagine having to pay for coaching, fields, uniforms, travel, etc. If, in addition to the regular season fees, one adds preventive medical or injury costs, the expense to play “the beautiful game” skyrockets and justifiably some strongly criticized DA.
National Team Exposure:
Kuddos to national team staff that was always present at showcases. Historically, looking through youth national team player selection for the different age groups, there seems to be a higher density of selected players from MLS based academies. There could be many reasons for that depending on who you ask, some may even go as far as saying that talent is higher at MLS academies. In our opinion, non-MLS talented players do not always get as frequent assessments from youth national team staff as MLS based players. This may not necessarily be a ding against DA but a tendency indeed. We will be writing a post on this subject (Is a player better off joining an MLS side?) in the near future.
Length of season:
DA games started in early September and ended in early July of the following year (for those teams going all the way to the final four). However, training at FCD started in late July leaving only two weeks of vacation in the summer and two weeks in the winter. Also, FCD usually had two international trips (outside of the DA season) to México per year. These mandatory trips were not club-subsidized (required fundraising) and occurred in early August and another one in mid January. The trips were fun, competitive, but didn’t allow proper recovery of the young athlete’s growing body. It’s a very long season that leaves limited time for anything outside of football. DA had some participation rules but not a single rule about a mandatory rest period.
DA had a “rule” (albeit soft) that players could not participate in school football (middle and high school). Personally, this may have been the main drawback for our boys. Both boys attended a private school prior to joining FCD. In that school, they could have very well excelled playing football (and other sports) as it’s not public-setting competitive. Early in their teenage years (more Jogo), they had to forego playing with school friends and abandon school sports due to potential saturation. In hindsight, some would say it was the correct decision. Ironically, both boys now get to see how their younger sister excels in every school sport she participates in and maybe that plants a seed of uncertainty about the “what could have happened if I….”.
I could go on listing more pros and cons but this post is already long. To summarize it, I would say that there isn’t a perfect fit for every football family. As you gauge what environment is best for yours, do your due diligence. Do what fits your family the most and without regrets go all in with the decision. We did that, and although it wasn’t perfect, we would do it again in a heartbeat. Please continue to reach out should you have any questions.
BTW, Johan and friends continue chumchatting. This week’s guest was the famous two time national champion Clemson “American” football coach: Dabo Swinney. Give them a listen.
First things first. Quick update on the family. Johan (and us) has almost completed the first (of two) week of his Texas State mandated quarantine . He’s shown no symptoms of COVID-19 (and neither have we) and is overall healthy. Unfortunately, he’s found himself a bit bored and has found creative ways to stay busy in his room upstairs. One thing is for sure, he’s found more time to devote to ChumChat. In that front, this week’s guest didn’t disappoint. Give them a listen. The portion about presidential trivia is impressive. BTW, be on the lookout as these young men continue expressing themselves off the field seeking and defining success via their interesting guests.
Today though, I write to celebrate Friday. Sure, most days seem like a blur under the circumstances but Fridays do mark the end of a work week for most of us. Besides, it’s not just any Friday, it’s “Good Friday”. Not only do some of us celebrate, Good Friday but today is also National Siblings day. Whichever your beliefs may be, find a reason to celebrate today with your family. As our good friends the Carrera’s would say #FamilyFirst
The rest of this post however is to celebrate National Siblings Day which is a new thing and is gaining more online popularity each year. While Jogo remains away (partying away with the Sanchez family in Louisville), the rest of the Gomez’s would like some time to commemorate this day. We are blessed and fortunate.
El tan sólo pensar en tener que tomar una decisión es complicado, aún más lo es tomarla. El sábado pasado por la tarde (la mañana de nosotros ), la Federación Portuguesa de Fútbol finalmente tomó decidió dar por terminada la temporada para todos los grupos de edades sub-19 y menores.
Sin embargo, el personal técnico solicitó a Johan que se quedara en Porto durante los meses de abril y mayo. El objetivo principal de esa solicitud fue que él (y algunos compañeros de equipo) entrenaran una vez que el departamento de salud portugués levantara todas las restricciones relacionadas con el coronavirus. El club quería evitar que el descanso prolongodo no tuviera efectos adversos en los jugadores que regresan el siguiente año. No hay duda de que Johan ama a Porto (la ciudad y el equipo), pero con los números de COVID-19 subiendo exponencialmente a diario, podríamos decir que había una parte de él con la esperanza de regresar a casa. Johan acató la decisión del club con cierta incertidumbre sobre su futuro, pero estaba entusiasmado con la posibilidad de volver al campo y potencialmente practicar con el primer equipo … pero fue ahí cuando se vino una montaña rusa emocional.
Sólo unas horas más tarde (sábado por la noche, hora de Porto), y con la situación de COVID-19 empeorando por minutos en todo el mundo, los directivos de Porto decidieron cambiar de opinión y permitir que todos los ciudadanos extranjeros viajaran de regreso a casa lo antes posible.
Irónicamente, la decisión que Johan había aceptado tan titubeante unas horas antes (de permanecer en Portugal durante dos meses más) ahora se estaba diluyendo con la posibilidad repentina (ahora no tan remota) de finalmente volver a casa.
Nos llamó de inmediato con la noticia. Para ser sincero, Claudia y yo no estábamos preparados para el cambio de opinión tan rápido del club. Cuando nos preguntó si queríamos que volviera a casa, no pudimos darle una respuesta bien pensada y objetivar, de hecho, impulsivamente dijimos: “por supuesto”. Sin embargo, de repente, teníamos más preguntas que respuestas, porque queríamos hacer la debida investigación y evaluar si el viaje era incluso factible (y seguro). Y así, la montaña rusa emocional continuó.
¿Habría todavía vuelos desde Europa a EE.UU?
Tratamos de contactar por teléfono inmediatamente a un representante de servicio al cliente de American Airlines. Para sorpresa, no pudimos encontrar uno y tuvimos que esperar horas antes de recibir una llamada. La angustia de Claudia aumentaba por no encontrar vuelos disponibles. Traté de mantener la calma (estaba funcionando en realidad) pero para aumentar la angustia, una vez que recibimos una llamada, el representante de AA algo cansado (tal vez frustrado) nos informó insistentemente que AA no tenía vuelos programados a Estados Unidos (o México) hasta la primera semana de mayo. Nos integramos sin quererlo inmediatamente a la realidad en la que vive hoy el mundo. Ahora, nuestra familia estaba siendo afectada directamente. Sin embargo, no estábamos en posición de rendirnos, así que seguimos buscando otros vuelos en todas partes.
¿Podría Johan volar en otra aerolínea? en cual? Sería riesgoso?
Probamos todos los sitios de viajes conocidos (varias aerolíneas) y sólo pudimos encontrar dos vuelos en la próxima semana más o menos. Un vuelo saldría el lunes (30 de marzo) y otro el martes (31 de marzo), cada uno con 4 paradas y tomando más de 3 (sí 3) días para llegar a casa … no era el más seguro.
En cuanto al tiempo, ambos estaban lejos de ser convenientes también, pero en un aprieto, eran opciones factibles. Sin embargo, ninguno de los vuelos iba a funcionar. Johan necesitaba hacerse cargo de la mudanza regular de “verano” como parte de la lista de cosas por hacer antes de salir de Porto ya que no regresaría hasta fines del verano.
Reservar uno de los vuelos anteriores le daba un tiempo extremadamente limitado para ocuparse de esa lista. El desafío no era tanto acelerar las tareas pendientes; el principal obstáculo era que casi nadie en Porto FC estaba físicamente disponible para ayudar, por lo que se quedó solo para pensar y ejecutar decisiones creativas.
Enfrentando con poco éxito inmediato los vuelos aunado al creciente estrés que esto le estaba causando a Johan (y a nosotros), decidimos dormir para tomar una decisión final sobre su regreso a casa y luego hablar sobre eso el domingo por la mañana.
Finalmente, se tomó una decisión
L noche del sábado fue muy larga. Ninguno de nosotros pudo dormir evaluando diferentes escenarios. No hubo una decisión “correcta”. Después de un análisis cuidadoso (acompañado de oraciones), nos dividimos en una decisión el domingo por la mañana.
Mientras que Claudia y Joana insistían en traerlo a casa, Mike y yo pensamos que lo más prudente era que se esperara en Porto durante al menos un par de semanas hasta que, con suerte, la situación mejorara. Llegó el momento de compartir una decisión con Johan. La llamada telefónica fue dura, la voz se quebró con fuerza. Mientras compartía mi decisión lógica y bien pensada con él, escuchó atentamente:
Mientras articulaba mis pensamientos, estaba tratando de imaginar su decepción, lo que se me hacía más difícil ser elocuente … En mi cabeza, todo tenía mucho sentido, pero de alguna manera, no me sentía bien. Por un lado, Johan definitivamente estaba más seguro al quedarse en Porto. Vive con su compañero de cuarto y a ambos solo se les permite salir a comprar alimentos (la cafetería del club está cerrada). ¿Qué tan arriesgado puede ser? El riesgo asociado con ir a la tienda y volver a la casa era mínimo. Por otro lado, su bienestar mental al permanecer en Porto hasta cuatro meses adicionales iba a estar aprueba.
Tan pronto como terminé de darle a conocer la decisión de no ir, Johan, no dijo mucho, pero se notaba que estaba molesto, realmente molesto. Tampoco lo escondió mucho. Esta era la segunda vez que “la situación” había jugueteado con sus sentimientos en vano. Mientras colgábamos, mi ansiedad seguía de un lado a otro. ¿Acabábamos de perder la oportunidad de traerlo a casa por meses adicionales?
¿Se quedaria atorado Johan atorado en Porto hasta el comienzo de la temporada 2020-2021 (Agosto)?
Habiendo tomado esa decisión, yo personalmente dormí mejor el domingo por la noche. Ese no fue el caso de Claudia; Algo no estaba bien. Sus instintos maternos encontraron todas las razones para cuestionar la decisión. Debo decir que tenía algunas preguntas que me hicieron reflexionar. De alguna manera, encontré una justificación lógica para cada uno de ellos … hasta que se hizo la siguiente declaración: “Prefiero que se enferme aquí con nosotros, que allá“. Eso me llegó muy hondo. Por un momento, solo pude imaginar esa situación y el sentimiento de impotencia y tal vez de culpa. En ese momento, todo el razonamiento que había hecho las últimas 36 horas salió se diluyó. Johan volvía a casa a toda costa.
Una vez más, a encontrar vuelos
El FC Porto ha sido increíblemente comprensivo este año con nosotros. Y una vez más, no decepcionaron. Colaboramos y con sus recursos, encontramos una manera creativa de reservar un vuelo de 4 escalas. No me pregunten cómo lo hicimos. Las probabilidades de que la logística funcione a la perfección no están precisamente a nuestro favor; aún así, necesitábamos apresurarnos. El viaje de regreso a casa comenzó hoy (hora de Porto)…
¿Cómo te preparas para un vuelo de 2 días (que normalmente se lleva 10 horas)?
Una vez que se confirmó la reservación, Johan tuvo que actuar rápidamente. Estas son algunas de las cosas que Johan tuvo que hacer antes de viajar.
1.- Su televisor, mini-refrigerador y guardarropa tuvieron que guardarse en un lugar seguro para el verano, ya que no volverá al mismo apartamento la próxima temporada. Normalmente, el club se encargaría de esto; sin embargo, nadie está físicamente disponible en estos días, por lo que fue difícil coordinarlo. Johan guardó todas sus cosas, las aseguró y las dejó en su departamento actual. Hay un riesgo asociado con esto.
2.-Equipaje: Debido a las múltiples escalas y cambio de aviones para su vuelo; la posibilidad de perder / retrasar el equipaje en tránsito era extremadamente alta. No era aconsejable viajar con el equipaje facturado, ya que eso podría hacer que Johan perdiera los vuelos de conexión. Johan tuvo que encontrar un servicio de equipaje internacional que garantizara que sus pertenencias personales para el verano viajaran de manera segura a los EE. UU. (En aviones separados)
3.- Dinero: Viaja con una cantidad adecuada de dinero, ya que no se garantiza que los cajeros automáticos funcionen. La cantidad es suficiente para las emergencias necesarias: hotel, alquiler de autos, comida y otros gastos de viaje en caso de que esté atrapado en alguna de las ciudades de conexión.
4.- Hidratación: Dado que no habrá servicio (mínimo) de alimentos / bebidas en ninguno de los aeropuertos (e incluso a bordo del avión), se ha hidratado como loco estos últimos días.
5.- Comida: Igual que lo anterior, empacó bocadillos que le durarán varios días los de su viaje.
6.- Embajada: Llamó a la embajada para pedirle consejos de viaje casi a diario. Fueron muy útiles; pero extremadamente cautelosos (casi pesimistas) a la hora de viaja.
7.- Suministros: Desinfectante de manos, guantes, mascarilla, vitaminas etc.
A la hora de la redacción de esta publicación, Johan se encuentra en su primera escala en Zurich, Suiza (incluso más lejos que Portugal). La primera de 4 escalas. Pequeños pasos… Dios mediante, aterrizará en Dallas, mañana por la noche (tarde). Aunque es poco probable, puede que sea puesto en cuarentena en el aeropuerto dependiendo de sus síntomas. Si asi fuera, ya nos enfrentaremos a un desafío diferente pero “juntos” (como familia) al fin…
Sabemos que tenemos mucha gente creyente en nuestra audiencia. Les encargamos unas plegarias para que nuestro hijo llegue a casa sano y salvo. No nos importaría que nos tuviesemos que poner en cuarentena como familia. Simplemente, ya lo queremos en casa. Ojala y a salvo. Hasta la próxima.
Mateo 6:34 No se preocupen por el día de mañana, porque mañana habrá tiempo para preocuparse. Cada día tiene bastante con sus propios problemas.
First of all, we would like to acknowledge and thank the outpouring of love and support we have received the past couple of days from folks all over. It’s been pleasantly overwhelming and much appreciated and it’s in moments like these that our bonds become stronger. We can’t thank you enough. If we haven’t gotten back to you personally, we will very soon. It’s been a physically, and emotionally draining week.
BTW, some of you have inquired about Jogo. Yes, he is away from us but doing really well (emotionally, mentally, and physically). He’s been busy wrapping up his online high school classes. LouCity has taken excellent care of him; we are in constant communication with their staff and they have been nothing short of amazing. Sure, we are not worry-free by any means but he is well-taken care of and “within” a driving distance should he need us. The time to see him again will come soon but that will have to wait…especially now. Anyway, here is where the Gómez’s are now on this Palm Sunday…
Late last night, Johan safely arrived to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) international airport after multiple stops in Europe and the US. He left Porto on Friday and made it home on Sunday (looong trip). As excited as we were to welcome him, we needed to take extreme safety measures to ensure his well-being and of those around him. Kudos to my sister-in-law who is a nurse by profession and led the way in the protocol to follow upon his arrival at the airport. The key to a successful “welcome” at the airport was preparation.
We were always very optimistic that the flight would turn out a success. However, that was only part of the trip. There were a lot of unknowns as soon as he landed in DFW and we needed to be ready for the worst-case scenarios. We had to be certain that once he made it out to the terminal and/or home, his (and ours too) safety would be paramount.
- Attire: We prepared a new set of clothing (including different shoes) for Johan so that he’d change into that right away at the airport. Short of taking a shower at the airport, the point of doing that was to isolate and seal all his personal belongings ASAP (including his carry-on bag). This included providing a brand new set of gloves and mask. Johan’s only request was “just don’t make me look like a clown with your selection of clothing”. I’m not sure we achieved that but at least he was safe.
- Cars: We also prepared two cars to take to the airport, one car would be used by him to drive himself back from the airport and use for the next 14 days while the other would transport the rest of us safely back home.
- Medical attention: We found a medical facility that would see him upon his arrival to DFW. Given his flight arrival hours and his uncertain symptoms, we arranged a virtual visit for him in addition to any medical attention he would receive at the airport.
- His bedroom: We permanently moved Joana downstairs. Johan would remain in his room upstairs at least for 14 days regardless of his symptoms (or any state mandates). If need be, he would have access to the entire second floor gradually. Needless to say, Joana was ecstatic to move rooms closer to us.
- Supplies: We stocked up his room with supplies that we thought he’d need for the next 14 days including some food/water, medical and personal hygiene. That also included disposable silverware to avoid the possibility of infection. BTW, Johan and his pet turtle “Buddy” will have a lot of good conversations in the coming days. Chumchat with Buddy next?
- New home rules: It’s hard to tell Joana that she won’t be able to be close to Johan for the next 14 days so we basically told her that we are all in separate quarantines. Johan stays upstairs and we stay downstairs. New house rules effective immediately. Only one person delivers food to Johan: Mom.
- Family: We had “surprise” plans to go visit family next weekend. Those plans will now take second priority.
With all the precautions above, the time came for him to land in DFW and we made our trek out to the airport.
Johan was exhausted from a flight that literally lasted 36 hours. The initial welcome was somewhat strange. In fact, what I’m about to describe is very unorthodox and in some ways comical. Pick up the bits and pieces that are useful especially if you need to travel soon.
First of all, even though all of us made the trip to the airport, I was the only one who got off the car(s) to “welcome” him at the terminal. Yes, as soon as I saw him, I wanted to hug him but that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, the welcome consisted of a set of delineated instructions for him to follow before going home. Apparently, he had been given a similar set of instructions (6 pages) after landing by DFW airport personnel. See below:
I took three 13 gallon trash bags with me to the terminal. Since we asked him to change clothing at the airport, the first empty bag was to put his current garment. The second empty bag was to put his carry-on bag. The third bag had a slew of clean/new things. Clean clothes, shoes, new mask, gloves, car keys, money, etc. (a la Chapo Guzman).
Johan had some initial concerns about driving back home because he was so tired, jet-lagged, it was late at night, cold, dark; and let’s be honest, he doesn’t really drive in Porto. However, it was imperative that he drove home by himself. We led the way home at a speed of 50 mph and since it’s a ghost town out there, 25 minutes after we took off from terminal E’s garage, we were home. As soon as he arrived home, he put away the trash bags in the garage and everything was ready for his medical consultation.
Medical consultation and feast back home
He proceeded to his room and his medical consultation lasted about 30 minutes. He was only asked a few questions regarding his trip. In Atlanta, he was medically screened meticulously because of his trip origination (and layovers); he was asked about his whereabouts for the last 2 weeks. However, since he was experiencing no symptoms, they said there was no need to test him at this point. They emphasized that we need to monitor him closely for the next 5 days.
As soon as that finished, he took a prolonged, relaxing (accompanied by Drake’s music) bath. After that, we then had “food” (dinner/breakfast) ready. He had requested a home-cooked meal so Claudia went all out and made him Mexican street tacos. He devoured 10 delicious ones. As he wrapped up the food up in his room, we finished watching Season 4 of “Money Heist/La Casa de Papel” and went to sleep right after that. We were all very exhausted but happy, really happy.
This morning we all woke up very late to face day #1 of our quarantine. So far, we are all symptom-free but it’s only been a few hours post exposure. We had a healthy and delicious omelette each.
As we are getting ready for our “Palm Sunday” virtual service, I remembered that my sister (avid church goer), who has always shown an unconditional support for the boys, had interviewed Johan just the day before he left Porto. At the time, she didn’t really know that Johan would be traveling back home. We sometimes limit that type of information to try to shield family members from stressing out about our uncertain football related adventures (Jogo also found out last minute…thank you Mike). J/K
The pre-flight interview:
Below, you will find an interview that my sister Blanca, journalist by profession, did with Johan. Kudos to her, who worries sick about our boys, when honestly she has bigger fish to fry. Credit where where credit is due; she is the master-mind of this website. We love you sis. BTW, happy birthday tomorrow. You are a special kiddo. I don’t tell you that enough. As for the short interview below, beware, the interview is in Spanish.
In our culture, it’s very customary to make promises (mandas); they a type of religious offerings. When making a manda, an individual calls on a saint to bring his or her case to God so that he can intervene and solve a problem. Mine was a bit different but I did make a promise to myself that if Johan made it home safely, I would shave my head, so that’s coming up later today…..thanks again for all the love an support; we hope you continue to find value in reading us. Until next time #theGomezway
Making the decision was emotionally draining but executing it is proving to be full of suspense and uncertainty; this is how it all went down…
Last Saturday afternoon (our morning), the Federação Portuguesa de Futebol (Portuguese football federation) finally made the decision to end its season for all age groups U19s and under. However, Porto’s technical staff requested Johan to stay put for the months of April and May. The main objective behind that request was to have him train once the Portuguese health department lifted all restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The club wants to prevent adverse effects from having a longer “off season” for the returning players. Johan loves OPorto the city, Porto the club, and football but with the COVID-19 numbers climbing exponentially daily, it was obvious there was a part of him hoping to come home early. Inevitably, he accepted the club’s decision with some hesitation but excited at the chance of getting back on the field and potentially practice with the first team…and this is when the emotional roller-coaster began.
Just a few hours later (Saturday evening Porto time), and with the COVID-19 situation worsening by the minute, FC Porto’s ownership decided to change their mind and advised ALL foreign nationals to travel back home ASAP. Ironically, the decision Johan had so hesitantly accepted a few hours prior (to stay put in Portugal for two additional months) was now being reversed with the resurrected (now not so remote) possibility to come home at last. He called us immediately with the news. To be honest, Claudia and I were not prepared for the quick change of heart by the club. When Johan asked us if we wanted him to come home, we couldn’t give him a rational, well-thought out, objective answer; instead, we impulsively said “of course”. Suddenly, we had more questions than answers but we owed it to him to do our due diligence and assess whether the trip back home was even feasible (and safe). And so, the emotional roller-coaster continued.
Were there flights even coming to the US from Europe anymore?
As soon as we hung up with Johan, we immediately called an American Airlines (AA) customer service representative. To nobody’s surprise, we couldn’t get a hold of one and had to wait hours before receiving a call back. Meanwhile, Claudia’s anxiety was increasing by the second as we couldn’t locate flights. I tried to keep my cool (was occupied working actually) but to our dismay, once we received a call back, a somewhat jaded (maybe frustrated AA rep) vehemently informed us that AA had NO scheduled flights back to the US (or Mexico) until the first week of May. We were quickly integrated into the reality the world is living in. Now, it was impacting our family directly. However, we were not about to give up so we kept searching everywhere for other flights.
Could Johan fly in another airline? if so, what would that entail? Was it safe?
We tried all known travel sites (multiple airlines) and could only come up with two flights in the next week or so. One flight would leave Monday (March 30th) and another one on Tuesday (March 31st) each with 4 stops and taking over 3 (yes 3) days to make it home…not the safest. Time-wise, both were far from convenient too but in a bind, they were doable options. However, neither flight was going to work; see, Johan needed to take care of the regular “summer” move to do’s list prior to leaving Porto since he wouldn’t be back until late in the summer. Booking one of the flights above, gave him extremely limited time to take care of that list. The challenge wasn’t so much expediting the to do’s; the main obstacle was that hardly anybody from FC Porto was physically available to assist so he was left alone to master mind and execute creative decisions. Faced with little immediate success for flights and the mounting stress this was causing on Johan (and us), we decided to sleep on making a final decision concerning his return home and then talk about it Sunday morning.
At last…a travel decision was made
Saturday night was really long. Neither one of us could sleep assessing different scenarios. There wasn’t a “right” decision. After careful analysis (accompanied by prayers), we were split on a decision Sunday morning. While Claudia and Joana were adamant about bringing him home, Mike and myself thought the most prudent thing was to have him wait in Porto for at least a couple of weeks until hopefully the situation improved. The time to share a decision with Johan came around. The phone call was hard, voice-cracking hard. As I was sharing my logical, well-thought out decision with him, he listened attentively,
As I articulated my thoughts, I was trying to imagine his disappointment which made it more difficult for me to be eloquent.. In my head, everything made perfect sense but somehow, it did not feel right. In one hand, Johan was definitely safer staying in Porto. He lives with his roommate and both are only allowed to go out to get groceries (club cafeteria is closed). How risky can that be? The risk associated with going to the store and back to the house was minimal. On the other hand, his mental well-being by potentially staying in Porto up to four additional months was going to be tested. As soon I finished relaying the no-go travel decision to Johan, he said little but was upset, really upset. He didn’t hide it either. This was the second time “the situation” had fiddled with his feelings to no avail. As we hung up, my anxiety continued to be rampant. Had we now just lost a chance to bring him home for additional months?
Would he be stuck in Porto until the beginning of the 2020-2021 season (August)?
Having made that decision, I personally slept better Sunday night. That wasn’t the case for Claudia; something was not right. Her maternal instincts found every reason to question the decision; I must say, she had some thought provoking questions. Somehow, I found a logical justification for every one of them…until the following statement was made: “I’d rather have him get sick here with us, than over there“. That hit me really hard. For a moment, I could only picture that situation and the feeling of helplessness and perhaps guilt. At that point, all the reasoning I had done the past 36 hours went out the door. Johan was returning home at any cost.
Back at it finding flights
FC Porto has been amazingly supportive this year with us. They did not disappoint this time. We collaborated and with their resources, we found a creative way to book a 4 layover flight. Don’t ask me how we did it. The chances of the logistics working seamlessly are not in our favor; even so, we needed to make a run for it. The journey back home began earlier today (Porto time)…
How do you prepare for a 2-day (potentially longer) flight? (that normally takes 10 hours)
Once the booking was confirmed, Johan had to act quickly. Here are a few of the things Johan had to take care prior to traveling.
- Personal belongings: His TV, mini-fridge, wardrobe had to be stored in a safe place for the summer as he will not be back in the same apartment next season. Normally, the club would take care of this; however, nobody is physically available these days so it was hard to coordinate. Johan boxed up all his stuff, secured it and left it in his current apartment. There’s a risk associated with this.
- Luggage: Due to the multiple layovers and change of planes for his flight; the possibility of losing/delaying the luggage in transit was extremely high. It was not wise to travel with checked-in luggage as that could cause Johan to miss connection flights. Johan had to find an international luggage service that will ensure his personal belongings for the summer travel safely to the US (on separate planes)
- Money: He is traveling with an adequate amount of money as ATM’s are not guaranteed to be functional. The amount is enough for needed emergencies: hotel, car rental, food, and other travel expenses in case he’s stuck in any one of the connection cities.
- Hydration: Since there will be no (minimal) food/beverage service at any of the airports (and even onboard the plane), he hydrated like crazy these past few days.
- Food: Similar to above, he packed up snacks that will last him for multiple days of his journey
- Embassy: He called the embassy for travel advice almost daily. They were very helpful; but extremely cautious (almost pessimistic) about traveling nonetheless
- Supplies: Hand sanitizer, gloves, mask, vitamins, medicine, etc.
As I write this, he’s in his first stop in Zurich, Switzerland (even farther than Portugal). The first of 4 stops. Baby steps….God willing, he will land in Dallas, tomorrow night (late). Although unlikely, he may be quarantined at the airport depending on his symptoms. At that point, we will be facing a different challenge but “together” (as a family) at last…
We know we have a lot of prayer warriors in our audience. Please pray that our boy makes it home safely. We don’t care if we have to quarantine ourselves for a while. We want him home. Preferably safe. Until next time.
Matthew 6:34 Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own