First family trip to Germany

After an almost 18 month hiatus from European trips, we managed to celebrate Johan’s 20th birthday in Germany -a tradition we broke last year due to COVID. From the moment he joined FSV Zwickau for pre-season, the club has showed him plenty of love and we were there to witness it all. Caveat: this post contains many pictures for us “visual learners“.

The experience was superb. The 5260 mile trip (just to Frankfurt) from the Dallas Fort Worth airport was all worth it. It was a 9.25 hour flight plus a 4 hour drive from Frankfurt to Zwickau but anytime you go see your son, distance is never a factor. Upon our arrival, Johan had just returned from practice and welcomed us with open arms (and a spanking spotless clean apartment). Mom was proud.

Johan welcoming Joana upon arrival, Zwickau, Germany (07.23.21)

Frankfurt Airport

Renting a car was extremely easy from Enterprise; it’s normally very expensive but we found an excellent rate. We made a reservation for an automatic transmission and were given a VW Passat stick shift (which I loved). Driving in Germany is very fun other than getting used to driving in the autobahns. One needs to stay super alert especially while occupying the fast lane as there’s many no speed limit zones and there’s always a car going faster than you. That’s right, I was able to accelerate to 225 km/hr (150 miles/hour) effortless. Also, there’s no passing on the right lane. Absolutely none.

220 km/hr in the autobahn traveling to Berlin 07.26.21

Station wagons are extremely popular in Germany and that’s what we rented. We first rented a 2021 Volkswagen Passat until it gave up on us. After that, we got a 2021 Škoda Octavia which we loved because it had a lot of bells and whistles that you don’t typically find in American sold cars. Both did a great job taking us all over Germany and the Czech Republic.

Aldis

One of the first family activities we did was grocery shopping. Johan’s apartment is very close to an Aldi. We didn’t know that Aldi was a German company so these grocery stores are everywhere. Aldis got us out of trouble in a bind as their setup is very similar to what we have back home. Thus, even if you don’t speak German, it’s easier to locate items and navigate the store without needing to be fluent in German.

Having learned Portuguese the past couple of years has helped us learn other languages. Currently, we are learning some German but not at the same rate as Johan. He’s fully immersed in it day in and day out. Our first impression is that it’s not as difficult as people make it sound. Juan Carrera gave us some pretty good advice prior to our trip: the younger generation speaks English fluently due to their frequent social media interactions; however, the older generation doesn’t. It sets expectations when we were out and about. Some phrases that came in very handy:

  • Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
  • Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
  • Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros?
  • Ich bin Amerikaner – I’m American
  • Wo kann ich ein nei taxi nehmen – Where can I take a taxi (they don’t have Uber service in a lot of cities in Germany)

Downtown Zwickau

Zwickau is the fourth largest city in the state of Saxony. Located in the mid-Southeast part of the country, it is surrounded by a lot of wind farms. Summers are beautiful, and the 60-70 degree Fahrenheit summer days are ideal for strolling through downtown which we often did.

Zwickau is one of the centers of the German automotive industry. While there, we were able to visit the renowned August Horch Museum.

August Horch Museum

The automobile museum covers the history of automobile making in the town of Zwickau. It takes us back in time when the company Audi was founded by August Horch. Note: The first part of the museum is described mostly in the German language while the more modern sections are in both German and English languages. There may be English speaking museum tours available but there weren’t any when we went. Allocate at least two hours to see it all.

The museum is a must see for automobile lovers (especially German automobiles). There are cars that date back to both World Wars just as seen in the movies. The museum is housed within the old factory where Engineer August Horch established Audi Automobilwerke GmbH in 1910. Audi was founded in 1909. The four rings of the Audi (now subsidiary of Volkswagen) logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union.

Stadium Pictures

Fortunately, we were there to accompany Johan for the obligatory club welcoming pictures. See Instagram post below. Good quality, wonder who took most of them.

Start of the season

First game

The first game was at home (GGZ Arena) against recently promoted Borussia Dortummund II. From the moment we entered the stadium, that experience requires its own post so we’ll leave it at that for now.

We are glad we got to see your pre-match European ritual and at the stadium were treated as VIPs. Thank you Johan.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was a 1-2 defeat but it was a great game to watch (Zwickau should have won it). It was his first official game as a professional in Germany in his new position, with the first team. Johan had a very solid game. Below are a couple of actions where he almost impacted the game directly.

Second game

For the second game, we drove to Köln. It was a five hour (481 Km) drive from Zwickau on a Saturday morning but the fan support was never lacking and the game against Viktoria Köln did not disappoint. It was Johan’s first game as a starter and the final result was a 1-1. We took the obligatory pictures at the end of the match and coach allowed him to drive back with us. We made some memories on the way back and even got lost…

Berlin

Mondays are normally off days for Johan and we always wanted to sight-see Berlin. The cosmopolitan city is not only Germany’s capital; it’s a must-see city with so much history. We decided to embark in the 300 kilometer trek in a one-day trip rolling down autobahn 4 from Zwickau. There’s so much to do and see, we’ll have to visit it again in the future.

Berlin Wall Memorial

We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s an incredible feeling when one is actually at the place where so much history took place. Quick trip but educational and meaningful for the “kids”. At a personal level, the Berlin Wall brings back so many -not so-pleasant memories.

Berlin Television Tower (aka Fernsehturm Berlin)

Erected at 368 meters in the midst of the East Germany superiority, the television tower is the main visible landmark in Berlin and the tallest in Europe. We now have visited towers throughout the world. Dallas, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Seattle, etc. They all offer a unique perspective and view of their respective city. Unfortunately, an due to COVID protocols, we were unable to have lunch at the top of the tower.

Prague

Prague is beautiful. One must reserve several days to see it and truly enjoy it. Driving into it from the north, makes it seem like the old communist Czech Republic with its old coal power plans. However, once one reaches Prague, one finds a very cosmopolitan city with a contrasting of old European architecture everywhere. As any big European city, there are designer stores everywhere. We had an opportunity to visit Saint Charles Bridge, Town Square, etc. It was too short but we know we’ll be back to see Johan very soon.

Return to Germany

If the delta variant continues to spread in the US at the current rapid rate, it’s possible entry to Germany may be limited to non-citizens (us). There were changes made yesterday already (they are revised every two weeks).

Thus, we will return to visit Johan before October to ensure we regain entry into the country and stay with him an adequate amount of time to provide him family support. For now, we left him with his super equipped apartment (nice view), his car setup and more importantly, in great hands with Coach Joe and staff. Enjoy the time in Germany son. #theGomezway

Family at Johan’s apartment

Chumchat

Give Chumchat’s new episode a listen. Johan talks about his move to Germany from Portugal and how that is going. For those of you thinking about playing in Portugal, he compares the Portuguese playing style to the German playing style and sets some expectations based on his experience. Playing for the first team now is a different responsibility (player experience-wise); one that still carries the weight of a promotion/relegation eco-system but one that he has welcomed with open arms. Go show Johan and the Chums some love.

Young footballers need to get a passport ASAP

By definition, a passport is a document purchased from the government primarily to allow its holder to travel internationally. In our case, MLS football and futsal provided our boys opportunities to travel abroad several times but none of those trips could have ever been possible without first acquiring an American passport.

As an American citizen and prior to joining a competitive football setup, it is of utmost importance to obtain an American passport especially if your child is under 18 years of age. So parents, do your footballers a favor and start the process for them ASAP.

In reality, access to just one passport could have additional benefits that transcend football. Furthermore, if your player has mixed ancestry and you can process multiple passports, having access to them can magnify those benefits. With the global characteristic of football, the parents of the player, should try to expedite getting a passport from each of the eligible ancestral countries. Before you know it, football or not, opportunities will necessitate access to one, or more, passports. Below are some advantages:

Advantages:

Multiple Nationalities:

If the country of ancestry recognizes multiple nationalities, the player could potentially be a dual (or multiple) nationality citizen. Also, the player could gain access to additional non-football benefits such as voting, free medical care, social-security-like retirement, etc. as a minor or as a potential adult living in that country in the future.

Furthermore, having access to multiple passports offers an opportunity to: enrich one’s cultural IQ, learn and empathize (with) new (different) customs/habits, master a second/third language, support another country in important world events (ex. the Olympics/World Cup) or simply put, visit that country with fewer restrictions.

Mom and Johan at AT&T stadium (Arlington, TX)
Learn new customs:

Locating the player’s ancestral country in a world globe, naming its capital, or even identifying the respective flag are great geography skills to posses but having a secondary passport goes beyond that bragging benefit. The player could learn a thing or two about their ancestors’ customs and traditions by visiting the country. The passport is not, by itself, going to force a behavioral change on the player (or family) but organically grow the player’s cultural IQ, perhaps remove some American biases, and who knows? maybe incentivize the player to start learning another language.

Master/learn another language:

Having access to multiple passports isn’t necessarily the main reason to learn a second (third or fourth) language but it helps. In fact, some multi-cultural families already speak a second language at home; however, the youngest generation may not know how to read or write the second language and thus passing on that skill onto the next generation could be very valuable to parents/grandparents.

The passport could be the vehicle to incentivize the player to polish reading/writing skills of the spoken language at home -especially if that country is one geographically close to the US (ex. México). Ownership of that legal document may also spark interest in learning a new national anthem, watching movies or listen to music in another language, etc. There’s some pride that goes along with being fluent in another language which is definitely magnified by ancestry (ex. pleasing the elders). As an additional benefit of learning a different language, the player/person is better prepared for an ever-increasing need of a global workforce.

COVID-19:

Recently, when countries shut their borders down due to the pandemic, only citizens of that country (with their proper passports) could travel back and forth from that country to the US and vice versa. We struggled a lot with that conundrum for over 18 months in Portugal.

Will borders close again with the delta variant or in the future? We don’t know, but as we attempt to reach normalcy, having a passport can even be of greater value just for visiting a country for vacation.

Traveling/tourism:

Upon arrival to some countries (ex. US, México, European Union countries), entry to those countries is expedited to citizens (or passport holders) of those countries right at the airport. That in itself is a benefit, albeit an ephemeral one. In some cases, ownership of a single passport can facilitate entry to many other colony-related countries (ex. a passport from Ivory Coast can allow entry into France). Thus, another great benefit of having multiple passports is the ability to visit (and stay) countries at will without a visa or without being questioned as to the duration or the frequency. This can be extended beyond leisure and for professional (football) reasons.

Professional reasons:

If an individual has access to multiple passports, professional possibilities grow naturally. Similarly, if a young player (prospect) has a EU passport, the parents could leverage that nugget of information to diversify opportunities and then negotiate a better professional domestic football contract. See Twitter thread below.

It’s a good card to have and one that cannot be taken lightly. For example, there are MLS clubs which require disclosure of this information on the player profile upon joining their academy ranks. Future professional path projection within a club could be influenced accordingly.

That card can be leveraged by football agents even at more senior levels. As an example, Tecatito Corona recently acquired his Portuguese passport which will facilitate him the opportunity to play in a top 5 European league without having to take up an international spot (now or in January). As a result, his player market value is more elevated than a player without such document.

Cost:

The cost associated to reap any (or all) of the benefits named above is relatively low if you do it yourself. As an example, if one has the appropriate heritage and corresponding documentation, for $165, one can process a Mexican passport in a matter of hours at the Mexican Consulate in Texas. A Spanish passport can cost a little more if you hire an attorney and a is a bit more complicated to process but it can be done easily as well.

Disadvantages:

There aren’t really any disadvantages other than the time consumed gathering the proper documentation, hiring an attorney (if you have to for guidance) and following through with the necessary appointments at consulates, etc. to monitor the progress from inception through conclusion (especially during COVID times). The process is very simple. We have now done it multiple times.

Multiple Nationalities:

Domestically, some people may perceive the pursuit of multiple nationalities as opportunistic. In Mexico, naturalized citizens who happen to be football players are questioned tremendously when pursuing the multi-passport route. In the US, accepting a second citizenship can be perceived as anti-patriotic, or even as a dent to their true American identity. For a young football prospect, access to multiple passport could sometimes attract an undesired type of attention.

Attention:

As a dual (or multi) national player, the attention drawn to your player is immediately magnified by different people from the corresponding ancestral countries. In some cases, people (fans maybe) will feel more identified with your player (not a bad thing); yet in others, player agents or coaches will be more direct in the recruitment or communication with your player to grow his spectrum of options.

Jogo posing with some fans. Credit: LouCity

In extreme cases, national team coaches may suddenly reach out to the parents. It’s situational. We are not advocating a higher attention towards the player being the reason for obtaining a passport. Quite the opposite. Be aware that the battle for dual-national players (in any discipline) has recently intensified and perhaps, to a non so-cool degree and cannot be ignored. The added attention/pressure could be viewed as a disadvantage or unnecessary distraction which ultimately could force a young player to have to justify their final country selection for representation. Something to think about as a parent. It’s not easy.

We hope you have found this information useful; minus the personal experiences, it’s information that is all online. As with other posts, we just centralize it, and tailor it to our own experiences. Recently, we have been approached frequently by different families about this same topic. Hope you enjoyed it. If there’s anything you want us to talk about, please reach out at: info@thegomezway.com.

PS. As always, thanks for the support for the children. We continue growing the sport in this country together. #theGomezway