Here is a quick recap of the game against Ecuador including my “commute” to San Juan, Argentina along with the usual pre and post-match behind the scenes stuff. Hopefully, some info and pics below are useful for future USYNT generations. Otherwise, if you are the casual reader, try to enjoy the content.
Dallas to Buenos Aires
My flight left Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International airport at 9:20 PM on Thursday, May 18 (Match Day – 2). For an international trip, I normally like to leave at least three days before match day but it was impossible this time. It was a 10 hour direct flight to Buenos Aires; I arrived around 11:20 AM local time (2 hours ahead of Dallas). As we landed, my T-Mobile device took forever to receive a signal and I was beginning to panic. We rely so much on those mobiles and the trip to San Juan was going to be a long one without a working phone. As I made my way to customs, my phone service was restored. At last, panic mode was turned OFF.
Buenos Aires to San Luis
I quickly proceeded to the rental car counter (where I also exchanged currency -1 US dollar is approximately 460 pesos). By 12:30 PM, I was out of the airport driving to the province of San Juan. Due to the length of the trip (1118 Kms -~800 miles), it consisted of two parts. When I left, I honestly didn’t know how long the first leg was going to be…always love the adventure especially when I’m traveling by myself.
San Juan is about 14 hours away from Buenos Aires since 90% of the trip consists of one lane roads with very low speed limits (100 – 120 Km/hr). The first leg was a very dull drive of about 10 hours from Buenos Aires to San Luis (a different province/state) crossing 3 provinces (Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and San Luis) in the process. It rained (sometimes poured) for at least 8 out of the 10.5 trip hours. Leg two of the trip crossed two additional provinces (Mendoza and San Juan). FYI Argentina has 23 provinces/states.
San Luis to San Juan
I spent the night in San Luis and the next morning, I left to San Juan around 6:15 AM for the last 3.5 hours of my trek. It was a bit of a treacherous drive as the first two hours were up in the cooler and foggy mountains, early in the morning (no coffee) and more one lane roads.
As in any tournament, the most important game is the first one. The team knew it and they were mentally prepared for it. Ecuador is a solid team with excellent individual talent and speed at every position; however, they sometimes lack cohesion and discipline in the last third. To be fair, the roster they took to the South American qualifiers was a tad different than this group for the world cup. It was imperative that we won possession in the midlfield.
I arrived at San Juan’s AirBnb around 10:30 AM, took a quick shower and went straight to see Jogo at their hotel. It was 12:15 PM (game was at 3 PM) when I was picking up my ticket to the game from the front lobby and I used the opportunity to wish him well and possibly calm any nerves.
It was reassuring that he was perfectly mellow about his potential WC debut. He had known that he could be playing in a different role for a few days, practiced accordingly and was tactically ready.
As I was leaving the hotel, I said farewell to a few of the players as they were making their way to the bus. It was very moving (and emotional for me) to see how the non-coaching staff one by one lined up from the hotel exit all the way to the bus entrance, to high-five and wish each team member a heart-felt, encouraging farewell. The majority of the non-coaching staff rides separately from the players and coaching staff. This was another sign of the family environment that Mikey has created with this team in his short term as the coach. As I made my way to the car, I was hesitant to return to the AirBnb to rest a bit fearing that I’d fall asleep through the game since I was so tired so I made my way to the stadium instead.
I arrived at the stadium where I sat in the US section. Our section was pretty much empty except for one additional player family, the rest of the non-coaching staff, and two players who could not participate in the first match. Given the excitement, I really didn’t take any pre-match pictures until after the match.
The beauty of this game is that we all can have a different view point and that’s okay; thus much analysis is not needed as most of you witnessed what transpired. I’ll venture to say that we dominated the first 20 minutes or so and then Ecuador settled in and finished the half stronger than we did. Jogo had a good challenge with Nilson Angulo (#10) and I am glad they faced each other for their own development needs. It won’t be the last time they face each other. Did you all catch #19? He’s a 2007 born!!!
Ecuador played a better second half with the crowd behind them all the time; fortunately, they never presented a real threat to our GK. The temperature was not extremely high; however, the sunlight hits differently here in San Juan. Our boys seemed a bit tired and the Ecuadorian players, accustomed to that climate, had the momentum especially in the last quarter of the game. Our subs came in, adjusted well, provided a much needed energy spark and they certainly made a difference. At last, we had won the first game of the 2023 U20 WC.
I only saw Jogo for a brief moment after the game. Ironically, when he tried to approach me near the sturdy fence separating fans from players, the same fans who were strongly rooting against the US throughout the game were the same ones trying to fetch a jersey, selfie or even an autograph from the US players. In the end, I was glad we did manage to snap this selfie below.
I stayed after our game to watch the double-header game between group rivals Fiji and Slovakia. It was good to scout the level of the competition our team will be facing today. On Friday, the second header game after our match with Slovakia will be sold out as Argentina will be playing against New Zealand. It should be a good one to watch.
It was a hostile environment where 95% of the 14k in attendance were naturally rooting for Ecuador. Our boys were mentally prepared and had an importantly good first showing; they know that the task at hand will should become more and more challenging.
As they continue their journey in this tournament, please remember that no matter what happens in the next games, these boys are giving their best for themselves, their teammates, their families, their communities, their clubs, you fans, and last but not least, their country. At the end of the day, this is a game, the beautiful game. Let’s keep it that way. The outcome of a football match (tournament) does not define us as individuals and much less as a country, nor should it define their careers. After each world cup game, Jogo will still be buddies with players from Ecuador, France, Slovakia, or whoever they play in the competition. As fans, we need to understand that there will be good games and not so good ones, that’s football and we can’t do anything to change that dynamic. However, how we react to their performance is within our control. Let’s not become the type of fans who use the outcome of a match as a justification for questionable behavior (ex. Valencia vs Real Madrid, El Salvador) physically or online. We owe it to the betterment of the game in this country to act responsibly.
That said, thank you for the tremendous outpouring of love and support received in the past couple of days. It will never be forgotten but we must keep a leveled head there as well. It was a great first win but there are far greater challenges lying ahead. Only few will probably know that, unfortunately, in this ephemeral, competitive profession, the good days are hard to come for a footballer. As I share that with you, please be sure to reach out to all US players (especially those abroad away from their families), when things may not be going well during their seasons. I’m sure they will appreciate hearing your unwavering support during challenging times as well. In the process, you will be contributing not only to their mental well-being but also to the betterment of the sport in this country. Every bit makes a difference in the life of a footballer. As you know, the summer will have a few important competitions for the USMNT; start reaching out to some of those players now if you can with words of encouragement.
As I wrap this post up, I’m heading to the second game against Fiji. They will feel your support from afar and the other two families and myself will do our best to permeate the good vibes onto the field. As always, thanks for reading. Let’s go boys!!! #theGomezway
PS Before I head into the stadium, I will stop by the Red Bull Skateboarding Tour Event taking place in San Juan, Argentina. This event is a qualifier for next year’s Olympics in Paris. Football does take you to unexpected places and events sometimes. I am so grateful to the sport…
2023 marks my 19th consecutive year as a certified US Soccer Federation (USSF) referee. It has been a progressive journey; I have had the pleasure of officiating anywhere from U4-U19 recreational games, competitive 3 vs 3’s, competitive club leagues/tournaments, public high school, Development Academy, to men’s college matches. Note: I have never officiated a futsal match.
As I wind down on my involvement on what appears to be my last year, I can say that most of my officiating years have served the following purposes: 1. Develop a greater respect, appreciation and empathy for refereeing profession 2. Understand yet another facet of the beautiful game. 3. Share acquired knowledge (through organic playing, refereeing, coaching and parenting education) via mentorship of young referees (ages 13-17), players (fans and coaches included) and last but not least 4. Fitness/exercising.
I officially started refereeing during my college years; I only refereed one indoor season as it was very seasonal and realistically, engineering consumed most of my college time. After graduation, I took a 6 year break before I rejoined the ranks and became one of the 100K+ registered soccer referees. However, I quickly understood that moving up the referee pathway (below) was going to take time which I didn’t have much of due to my other academic and corporate endeavors. Unfortunately for the sport in this country, soccer officiating is a profession that very few pursue as a career for many reasons; some of which we will try to root-cause below.
It is important to understand that the best part of officiating is flexibility. Soccer referees are independent contractors; as such, the duration of their work is short, and they normally have the freedom to officiate at times, places and fees of their own choosing. That said, most young referees pursue soccer officiating to generate a stream of income with flexible hours starting as early as 13 years of age. Another advantage is that referees can earn up to $600 (tax-free) in a calendar year without having to report it to the IRS. The below recreational (rec.) referee pay scale (albeit from 2020) can be very attractive to a young referee.
Let’s be honest, pay scales like the one above won’t be sending any adult referees into immediate retirement either. Caveat: Recreational refereeing pay scale is at the bottom of any pay scale. As such, adult soccer referees normally do not enter the profession hoping it become the single source of income. Even for college level soccer referees, the hourly wage (once travel is factored in) is nothing to write home about. In the majority of the cases, adult referees enter the profession by being forced to be around the sport in some capacity: coaching youth, volunteering, having a child playing in the local rec. soccer association or just wanting the best seat in the house while earning some (albeit little) cash. Some use it as a hobby and in some rare cases like mine, we end up pursuing it as a permanent way to give back to the beautiful game. There is however, an in-between temporary category of soccer officials where “hobby meets income source” and that normally belongs to referees whose English is a second language. They tend to pursue the profession wholeheartedly at the beginning of their arrival to the United States but that dedication only lasts until some higher income source comes along.
A few years back, there was a small perk for referees; at the conclusion of the assigned games, a cash payment was rendered at the fields. There’s just something satisfactory about being paid immediately after a service is rendered. However, times have changed with technology. Most soccer associations have now adopted an automated payment system where referees no longer get paid cash at the fields. Instead, they have to wait up to three days to be electronically compensated for their services. Unfortunately, there are adult referees whose personal finances depend heavily on the revenue they generate refereeing over the weekend and having to wait to be paid is just another entry barrier to the profession or its progression. One time, at my local association, it took about 6 weeks for three games refereed to be deposited into my bank account due to a “glitch” in the system.
Those situations described above lead us to conclude that the best hope to have future competent referees resides in the youngsters (ages 22 – 30) whose college soccer playing days are over, still have a desire to be involved in the game, progress through the referee ranks, are financially stable and despite the constant criticism, choose pursue the career.
Unfortunately, the brave and ambitious young referees who consider advancing in the profession face the constant criticism from the experts (ex. coaches and fans) which ultimately proves too much to endure at such low wages. The below statement comes from the yearly Grassroots training that all referees must undergo during recertification.
Officiating public high school soccer is more attractive financially due higher wages and a travel per diem. In theory, fans are more knowledgeable about the game since they have been around it longer but the sad reality is that high school soccer is the twitter of soccer; anonymous spectators hiding behind crowds (screen) easily become coaches and experts of the game. The constant disrespect towards the refereeing crew is even normalized by other adults at the stadiums as “teenage behavior”. Spectators from all walks of life become loud critics of the officiating crew showing constant dissent. It’s common to listen to criticism from students, family members, etc. whose background may not even include ever setting foot on a soccer field (other than to kick a field goal). Statistically, constant criticism is the main contributor for younger (more experienced) referees to trump their progression in their careers.
To play devil’s advocate, not all the blame can be placed on “know-it-all” spectators though. Many soccer referees may not possess the adequate soccer background/instinct to maintain the flow of the game or even establish credibility in a game. When it comes down to it, it’s a chicken and egg dilemma. How can more potential referees be recruited if the few brave ones face the constant criticism of the experts? Therefore, anybody (and I mean anybody) willing to undergo a few hours of training is often recruited (family members/friends) by assignors (ex. KSA) and thrown to the fire without the proper preparation. Unfortunately, the lack of playing/watching experience for a referee is immediately evident and the fans pick up on it and magnify its impact on the game. This aspect is exacerbated at the professional level as ex-professional referees are normally hired by tv networks to critique their former colleagues’ performances.
The low retention rate of referees unfortunately leads to the desperate recruiting of unqualified individuals. Most referees I officiate with did not grow up playing, coaching or even watching the beautiful game. In fact, here in Texas where American football “is life”, on a typical Saturday fall morning at the referee tent, most referees often converse about American college football games in between soccer games while a simultaneous football derbies (ex. Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Inter vs AC Milan, Man City vs ManU) are being played. Soccer has a long way to go to be mainstream in the American culture to reach the popularity levels of other American sports. As a result, most soccer referees are more knowledgeable about other sports but become soccer referees for a spectrum of reasons but none really for career advancement or even the love for the game.
The flip side sometimes is that not having played or watched the game growing up, could be an advantage as these inexperienced referees only view the game in a binary way. They then become more purists applying the laws of the game per the textbook. In my opinion, referees who played the game have a more intuitive feeling and appreciation for the game and as a result, allow a greater fluidity of the game. Unfortunately, most referees who did not grow up playing or watching the game do not pursue the profession at a higher level as they do not feel properly equipped (protected) with the tools to succeed.
Another reason that deters individuals from pursuing officiating as a career is the growing recertification requirements. Associations do not make it simpler to desire any serious involvement in it. Furthermore, it’s a profession pretty much monopolized by the referee assignors. In my local soccer association (Keller Soccer Association), if you are good friends with the assignor, he will assign you competitive games; otherwise, referees may be doomed. I get it, assignors need reliable referees and in some cases need to prioritize repaying favors to referees who were promised games during recruitment.
US Soccer requires each referee to undergo an annual recertification process. The online education consists of seven modules with an approximate total duration of about 5 hours if taken back to back. However, realistically speaking, nobody takes all this training in one sit-down, therefore, for a working adult, the training could easily take 3-4 days.
Intro to Safety
Laws of the Game Changes Review
Grassroots Referee Refresher Assignment
Appropriate training needs to be taken (and test passed) corresponding to the current referee level desired at the end of the calendar year. The most basic recertification level is called the “Grassroots Referee License Fee”.
There is an initial equipment cost to become a referee. Between uniforms, a reliable watch, whistle, flags, etc. a beginner young referee could easily spend $200 to get started. This startup cost is very steep for a young teenager who is trying to make some quick cash. If in addition to that, the youngster has to put up with constant criticism from the experts, it can easily be justified why so many quit within the first two years.
There’s a cost associated with the recertification of each officiating grade in the previous section (and a late fee if registered after mid December). The lowest recertification cost is for the Grassroots Level. That annual cost is about $60
Official Sports International (OSI) has a USSF approved monopoly on referee gear. US Soccer has allowed this throughout several decades. As a result, OSI has a huge market share of the referee equipment market domestically. Their merchandise is constantly being pushed/advertised by USSF. The gear is not inexpensive. For example, a short sleeve yellow pro referee shirt is about $50 (the economy version is about $30). You then add socks, shorts, tennis shoes, whistle, flags, cards, etc. and the startup costs for a young referee can easily add up to $200 – $300 in between different color referee shirts (short sleeve vs long sleeve). All that is “conveniently” provided by OSI.
In the North Texas Association, anybody 18 years of age or older is subjected to a mandatory annual background check. Successfully completion is a requirement for eligibility to either recertify or become a referee for the first time.
The background check does not take any training time; instead, it requires the submission of some personal information so that the State Soccer Association uses that information to process the background check. If the background check is passed; the training required for recertification can begin.
Safety Certification Courses
Introduction to Safe and Healthy Playing Environments
US Soccer requires a yearly certification of the “Introduction to Safe and Healthy Playing Environments” online module with an approximate duration of 45 minutes. The training is available for coaches, referees, and staff over the age of 18 to ensure adults give some consideration to having an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). The EAP would be triggered in the unfortunate event of a medical emergency. Specific scenarios like concussions, cardiac arrests, heat strokes, and more are covered. Similarly, action items such as CPR, AED, calling 911 are described in detail.
Although the training is a great tool to have (not only for football related emergencies), it does place a good deal of responsibility on adults who may be in an emergency situation. That said, the yearly requirement, which doesn’t change from year to year, is a deterrent for some referees (especially the young ones) to recertify.
In addition to the “Introduction to Safe and Healthy Playing Environments” training above, US Soccer also requires individuals 18 years of age and older to be “Safesport Trained”. The course contains information about fostering a safe and positive environment for athletes while preventing the different types of abuses/misconducts.
For the very few interested in advancing their officiating careers through the different refereeing grades, annual fitness tests must be paid for and passed in order to prove physical fitness proficiency. There’s an additional cost to undergo that physical assessment during the annual certification periods. Aspiring referees must undergo the fitness assessment on a Saturday morning and preparation is key. Otherwise, it could turn out to be a harsh reality check for those older/heavier set referees. Let’s be honest, it’s no ninja warrior type of course but it’s no cake walk either. Fitness proficiency helps referees’ credibility as they are trying to keep up with 18/19 year old players. Few individuals want to stay fit to advance their officiating careers though.
For those interested in advancing in their careers, there are annual referee assessments (at a cost of course) to make it to the next level. These are yearly assessments that referees must undergo in order to re-certify at their current (or higher) level. Honestly, it really helps to “know” the assessor as some referees, given their mobility on the field, knowledge of the game, etc. have no business passing their corresponding assessments.
Different laws of the game
One of the main complains that you will hear from soccer referees is that IFAB annually approves revisions to the laws of the game (ex. definition of a handball). FIFA then, in an effort to make the game more attractive and easier to understand, approve those changes. As the revisions are cascaded down to each countries’ football associations, they complicate the learning of the laws of the game which few referees care to keep up with. As a result, constant education is key to the success of the soccer referee but many fail due to the inconsistent application of the law changes from their peers. To exacerbate the inconsistent application of the laws of the game, the laws of the game also change based on age group, and competition type. Law changes are the only constant in refereeing.
The entry level for young soccer referees is recreational youth soccer. Starting with the little ones (U4, U5), it’s by far the easiest level to officiate where innocent referee mistakes can be made and they won’t impact the outcome of a match. Unfortunately, more often than not, you find the parent (not coach) who wants fouls be called because their son was tripped “on purpose” by a 4-year old when their team was already winning by 10 goals.
As older age group games are officiated, the main challenges in recreational soccer become learning the different rules (ex. no heading of the ball) AND trying to position yourself correctly on the field. A wide spectrum of playing experience often cause random and unexpected ball touches/bounces which are just unpredictable for the unprepared referee when seeking best positioning. It takes a lot of experience and focus to position (not so much to officiate) these types of games as the player and ball movement is not logical. I have always found that more competitive games are easier and more fun to referee; however, with greater fun comes more responsibility and required knowledge and certifications.
High school certification has its own annual costs, assessments, and of course rules (outside of USSF) which in Texas are dictated by the University Interscholastic League (UIL). The rules are very similar to college level NCAA rules. Everything that you can imagine that shouldn’t be changed with regular FIFA football laws of the game is changed in high school soccer. For example, officiating with one, two or the regular three referees is allowed, stopping the clock is permitted and frequently used by the referees, different card colors are allowed, in case of a tie at the end of regulation, overtime is an option, etc. Those are only a small sample of rules that are different that most referees must stay current on to establish credibility.
The annual revisions in high school soccer rules (and FIFA too) justify the recertification process but it’s a deterrent. Simultaneously refereeing club soccer and high school soccer can be confusing for referees as their seasons overlap. This potential confusion could make a referee look like a novice if rules switching is not applied properly. The annual revision of rules (the system itself) makes it very challenging for referees to learn all the different sets of rules of each competition level.
Similar to high school, college NCAA soccer rules are very different than regular FIFA soccer’s. At least the referee remuneration for officiating any level of college soccer is generous but nothing to write home about. However, that doesn’t justify the different rules. I wrote the above post about that topic a few months ago so I will not rehash that discussion.
Officiating club is a level above recreational. The laws of the game are similar; however, the environment is more competitive and the fans are more involved. The american “pay to play” model puts additional pressure on parents and players to win at all costs so typically, club players, even at young ages, push the envelope on the application on the laws of the game. Despite that challenge, competitive club is my favorite level to officiate.
Let’s be honest, soccer is not the most prestigious sport in the United States; that combined with being a profession that is constantly scrutinized by the “experts” due to its constant decision making (no time outs) do not make it very appealing for pursuit. As a result, the United States has very few competent referees that represent the country at the highest level. Hats off to the trailblazers who paved the way for others to follow despite the many challenges cited above.
US Soccer is gradually growing and has established a well-structured referee program with mentorship programs, quarterly newsletters, continuous education, and other tools to better equip aspiring referees. I am confident that with the right support, the US will see a greater amount and more competent referees not only at the MLS level but also at the world stage level. Will this effort keep up with the rest of the world? We shall see…
The sport has given our family so much that it would be unfair to not give back in some capacity. In full disclosure, I have selfishly used refereeing as a tool to grow my leadership skills in my other life endeavors. It does require a lot of patience, and more importantly thick skin thereby building character. Unfortunately, the perks are quickly offset by its challenges making it a tough profession to progress in for a great majority.
Personally, I have found these 19 years so fulfilling as they have provided me a different understanding of the game. As a result, both Johan and Jonathan pursued refereeing for many years which proved to be not only a great way to make decent money but doing so in a field they were passionate about. Unfortunately, at some point it became difficult to refereeing along with their academic and dynamic soccer schedules.
In my current home association, we have an excellent core of experienced referees who have established a young referee mentorship program. Maybe my next phase is to become a full-time mentor. Unfortunately, the current shortage of referees, is forcing recently-recruited referees to behave and officiate like experienced professionals soon after recruitment. The higher expectations played on young referees is yet another reason, that soccer associations have such high referee turnover. Just like the sport itself, refereeing requires a lot of repetitions to become competent. High expectations from the fans linked to high expectations from the Director forced upon on newly recruited referees/assignors are common deterrents. Therefore, most teenage referees normally find alternative sources of income through high school and young adults are very unlikely to start their refereeing careers especially after they have finished a college degree and are entering the “corporate world”.
As I wrap up this post, our high school aged daughter is expressing a strong interest in becoming a recreational soccer referee. Who knows? I may stick around for at least one more year (20?) to help her decide whether refereeing is for her or not. BTW, if you know anybody interested in refereeing, visit this page. Until next time…#theGomezway
Yesterday marked three weeks since Jogo played his second USMNT game and his first 90. We are grateful for the opportunity; it was truly a blessing and an honor. That moment will occupy a very special place in our hearts as a family (and definitely for young Jogo). Documenting moments like these often helps relive them in the future when details become blurry..it also could be informational and motivational for others.
Note: In the following paragraphs, we hope to provide some behind the scenes transparency (mostly the arrival and departure journey for Jogo) without revealing potential sensitive information about the federation, their protocols or other players. On the other hand, it’s inevitable to neglect sharing details about the short amount of time that most players have together before they are expected to perform at a high level. Maybe it will set expectations for fans, friends and family members, and future USMNT players. None of that should be secret anyway. Here is a summary of how things transpired for Jogo…
League game prior to trip
While most January USMNT players had arrived to camp on Friday January 20th, Real Sociedad (RS) requested Jogo to stay in Spain for a Sunday, January 22nd, noon game despite the fact that he was not partaking in the game. Why you may ask? Two main reasons. The first is that he had sustained an injury/knock during the previous week’s derby against Amorabieta and he needed to rest in preparation for camp. The RS doctors wanted to monitor his progress for as long as possible while in Spain. The Amorabieta game, where he sustained the injury, was a rollercoaster of emotions.
Check out the highlights below; Jogo scored a goal and almost had two assists. However, shortly after his goal got called back, he sustained a non-contact re-injury due to the field conditions forcing him to sub out at halftime.
Despite the fact that Jogo would not play against Intercity on Sunday, the club informed the US federation that he would arrive Monday, January 23rd, morning (Match Day – 2 days) to camp in LA. The second reason for needing his presence for the Sunday league game was to fulfill one critical task the club delegated to Jogo. See, up to that point, he had accumulated four yellow cards in the season and a fifth yellow card would make him miss the next game. His mission, -which he was “strongly advised to accept“- was to earn a fifth yellow card from the bench in order to miss the next game that he was going to miss anyway due to USMNT camp.
Therefore, Jogo dressed up that game against InterCity with the sole purpose of earning a fifth yellow card to miss the next game against Rafa Márquez’s (and now Julian Araujo’s) Barcelona B. At halftime, Jogo figured out a clever way to earn a yellow card and voilá, he had accumulated his fifth yellow card of the season and now, he would serve his suspension game during USMNT camp.
San Sebastián to Los Angeles trip
At the conclusion of the Intercity game (around 2 PM San Sebastián’s time) where he *proudly* earned his fifth yellow card, Jogo showered -sweated his rear off earning that yellow- and within minutes he was transported along with his luggage from the RS’s facilities to Bilbao’s airport.
San Sebastián to Bilbao
The drive from San Sebastián to Bilbao is about an hour and on a late Sunday afternoon, there was hardly any traffic. Jogo reached the airport around 4 PM (One hour total trip time so far, Six hours since he left home).
Bilbao to Amsterdam
He showed his passport without any complications (more on this later), checked in his luggage, and off he went for his three leg, 27 hour journey to USMNT camp in Los Angeles. He was boarding a small plane around 4:30 PM for a 5:20 PM flight that would take him to Amsterdam. He then arrived in Amsterdam around 7:35 PM (Four and a half hours total trip time so far).
Amsterdam to Mexico City
In Amsterdam, he had a two hour layover. Around 9:44 PM, he was onboard the plane that would take him to Mexico City.
He arrived to Mexico City at 4 AM CT (11 AM San Sebastián’s time) on Monday morning. There, he met mom and his uncle to receive some important documentation. (20 hours total trip time, 25 hours total trip time since he left home).
Mexico City to Los Angeles
After the necessary family pictures, Jogo had a three hour layover before he embarked on the last leg of his trip to LA. Prior to that, he had a very nice Mexican meal at the airport accompanied by mom. After a 5 hour flight, he finally arrived to LA at 10 AM PST. (28 hours total trip time)
First training session (MD#1 -2: Monday)
Jogo was picked up at 10:30 AM PST and transported to the training facility. He arrived, dressed up, performed activation with the group for 30 minutes and then had a light 45 minute session separate from the team. His integration with team members took place after training. Kellyn, as usual, welcomed him with open arms. Similarly, Zendejas, talked to him about the previous time they trained together (Mexican National Team camp). The convo turned very funny and the DTID connection prevailed with them as well as Jesus and Paul.
Second training session (MD#1 -1: Tuesday)
The second training session was a short one too by design since it was “Match Day -1”. Jogo was extremely jet-lagged but integrated well and was very happy to meet up with his U20 teammates again.
He learned that he would be playing (and starting) against Serbia on match day. We could tell it was unexpected and he was anxious. Honestly, what exacerbated the situation is that we all thought he wouldn’t play Wednesday and as a result his family wasn’t going to be around for the game. See, I assumed he wouldn’t be seeing any minutes against Serbia due to his recent arrival but that was not the case. I believe that part of the reason for playing the Serbia roster is because some of those players were in-season and Serbia, in theory, was a lower ranked opponent so it made sense.
US vs Serbia (Wednesday)
We would like to assume that most readers of this post watched the game so there’s not much to add. The game had its moments but at least initially, it was obvious that most players had not played together ever (or for a long time) and the lack of chemistry showed at times. Jogo himself grew into the game and went the full 90. Honestly, at one point, it seemed like Serbia would end up losing by a few goals but that’s why the game is played.
US vs Colombia (Saturday)
We learned that RS suggested USMNT staff to have Jogo sit this one out which was an easy decision due to rotations. RS was not expecting to see Jogo play in the first game and much less go the distance against Serbia. Easy decision, everybody’s happy.
We had booked tickets already for Saturday’s game so we took this opportunity to go watch a game full of passionate Colombian fans knowing that Jogo wouldn’t be participating. At the game, we met up a lot of people whom we had not seen in a long time. It was also good to return to the same stadium where Jogo had made his USMNT debut against Bosnia-Herzegovina 13 months earlier. The game itself was very winnable with both sides having opportunities with US probably having more and clearer chances. In the end, the draw was probably a fair outcome and the atmosphere was very good. At the end of the match, we were able to snap some pictures with Jogo and some of his teammates.
Trip back to Spain
Jogo left the hotel on Sunday along with Paxten and the FC Dallas players (Jesus, Paxton, and Paul). They all ended up traveling together to Europe (Frankfurt) and then to Spain (minus Paxten). FC Dallas was doing pre-season in beautiful Marbella, Spain.
The return trip was a bit shorter due to the two leg trip (and of course the rotation of the earth). Jogo and the crew departed LA on Sunday at around 3:30 PM PST, arrived to Frankfurt around 10:30 AM Monday morning (12 hours approx.) local time. Ultimately he reached RS’s training grounds (to pick up his car) at 7:30 PM (21 hours total). He was home by 8 PM with enough time to get ready for an early training session on Tuesday.
At the writing of this publication, his knock has improved slightly. He still has inflammation but is able to play consistently on it. Doctors say that inflammation will eventually go away. At this point, I think he’s about 85% – 90% back. We’ll keep sending him good vibes for a full recovery. Thanks to those who have reached out to check up on him. Below is a clip of a highlight from last week’s game (after he returned from camp). You can find these videos in our YouTube platform or Instagram.
What is next for Jogo is his club obligations. We are hoping he stays healthy and continues playing consistent good minutes in order to be considered for future National Team activities. For now, onto the next practice. #theGomezway
Well, 2022 is now history so it’s time to recap the last 365 days…2022 started with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly worldwide; fortunately, a higher global vaccination rate helped combat its widespread. As a result, the death toll decreased dramatically from its predecessor the Delta variant. Optimism was rampant but measured.
Just like 2021; last year was a very tumultuous year from various view points: political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological to name a few; there is always the silver lining and we are grateful for the many lessons learned. Our family was blessed in many ways but not without overcoming some anomalies. Celebrating success is a must. Reminiscing about last year’s events is a reminder to seize the day (carpe diem).
Claudia and Joana accompanied Jogo a few days to San Sebastian, Spain for his permanent move. His football registration with La Liga was delayed significantly but al last, he was allowed to play. He made his debut with Sanse in a friendly a few days later.
On January 15th, a few miles from where we live, a 44 year-old British gunman Malik Faisal Akram, took 4 people hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Rabii Charlie Cytron-Walker, a regular teacher at Fort Worth Christian School (where Joana goes to school), was one of the four hostages. The Rabii threw a chair at the gunman and the other two hostages escaped. At the end of the ordeal, all the hostages ended up safe and the gunman dead.
On January 6th, Novak Djokovik was denied entry to Australia by the government after having acquired a vaccination exemption. The denial was supposed to cause him his participation in the Australian Open. In a turn of events, on January 10th, a judge reversed the order allowing him to enter Australia and participate; however, in a logical application of Australian vaccination laws, Djokovik ultimately not only was prevented from participating in the Australian Open but also deported from Australia.
On January 30th, against all odds (see my post from 2021), Rafa Nadal became the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles by overcoming a two set deficit against Russian Medvedev in an epic 2022 Australian Open final.
On February 14th, Jogo decided to give us the best Valentine’s present ever…his debut in Europe in La Liga 2 against Ponferradina. In a hard-fought game that was lost in the last second, Jogo draws the PK that leveled the score 1-1. Boy did I love that maroon uniform. We now have a few of those jerseys if you are interested, reach out.
Normally under the global category but given February’s global events, this will remain in the National category. On February 13th, the LA Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 23-20 in Super bowl LVI (56th). Tampa Bay native and Highland Park HS attendee Matthew Stafford, won his first super bowl with the help of 42 year old, Andrew Whitworth. This is the second time that a super bowl (2021 was the first one) team plays in their home stadium.
To me, the best part of the game was the halftime show featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Eminem. If not the best, it’s top 3 performance in all the years I have been watching the game.
On February 24th, Russia launches an invasion on Ukraine. and everything else that followed had a tremendous global social, political and economic impact. More importantly, it is very hard to put into words the number of lives that were lost. As of the writing of this post, the war continues…
Two notable events took place in March. First, while I was visiting Jogo, he started training with the first team and even made the trip to Mallorca where he met up with fellow American Matthew Hoppe. Although he didn’t get to play, his inclusion to the first team was noteworthy. To his dismay, he was assigned #39 (not #42).
Mom made it out to Germany (by herself) to visit Johan for the first time. She spent about a month with the oldest sibling while Joana and myself managed to survive back home. All good. During that time, she found time to visit Jogo in Spain as well.
On March 10th, the MLB stopped its strike no longer jeopardizing the 2022 season. All the games were played; however, the start of the season was delayed by one week. The Houston Astros would go on to win the world series once again.
On March 5th, in an embarrassing display of the most violent emotions that football can elicit, Mexican fans drew attention to the Liga Mx game between Queretaro and Atlas. In the 62nd minute of the game, the referee decided to stop the game due to a continuous engagement between fans of both clubs. The violent exchange would go on for hours in what some would define as the worst day of Mexican football history. Beware, the below video shows very graphic actions that took place on the pitch. Outside of the pitch violence escalated to unprecedented levels.
On April 4th, the NCAA March Madness tournament came to an end. Like in 2021, a big XII team came on top. The top ranked Kansas Jayhawks rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat the 8th-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels 72–69 in the national championship game. This was the 4th championship for the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team.
On April 30th, in a home game Real Madrid won a record 35th La Liga title, following a 4–0 victory over Espanyol. Coach Carlo Ancelotti became the first coach to win titles in all of Europe’s top five leagues. Real Madrid would go on to also win its 14th Champions League in the same season.
May was an emotional roller coaster for our family. There were some great events that took place and other lessons that we learned the hard way…
On one hand, Sanse was relegated to the 3rd division and unfortunately Jogo was unable to help the team since he was nursing an injury for several weeks. Bragging aside, his team had a very solid numbers every time he started and/or played. That definitely didn’t go unnoticed by the staff.
On the bright side of things, Johan came home after his first successful season in Germany. Being the second youngest on the team, he finished the season as the team’s second leading goal scorer despite playing out of position half of the time. In his last game of the season, he assisted twice to finish the season strongly.
On a more academic note, after many years of sacrifices, my sister received her PhD in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Houston. Claudia and myself accompanied her in this special day. We could not be any prouder and happier for her academic achievement.
Continuing with a unfortunate tradition of school gun violence, on May 24, in Uvalde Texas (a small town west of San Antonio, Texas), teenager Salvador Ramos opened fire killing nineteen elementary students and two teachers. The former student of Robb Elementary also wounded seventeen others making the mass shooting the deadliest in Texas history.
Academic accolades are always celebrated in our family especially in Jogo’s situation. After receiving a Christian education for over 10 years, we came to terms with having him finish his last three years of high school online when he moved to Louisville. It was a blessing in disguise as the pandemic hit shortly after forcing everyone to adapt to the virtual classroom which Jogo had already started three months prior. He finished his HS years while living in Spain making it challenging to attend live sessions while seven hours ahead. He somehow made it work.
In June, Jogo finished his high school years with honors and due to this event and the injury he sustained in Spain in May, he could not attend the CONCACAF U20 Qualifying that took place in Honduras. The US team ultimately won the championship game defeating Costa Rica by a score of 3-1. Meanwhile, in a surprising turn of events at this level, Mexico was unable to advance to the semifinals missing out on the 2023 U20 WC and the 2024 Olympics.
On June 16th, in the sixth game of the NBA finals, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics. The Western Conference Champions won their fourth championship (7th overall) in the last eight years. As most would expect, Steph Curry was named MVP of the finals. He was, once again, unstoppable.
2021 had marked what some of us had considered the end of Rafael Nadal era in major tennis tournaments. He had lost at the 2021 French Open for the first time. Then, in January 2021 (see above), he won the Australian open becoming the winningest Gran Slam male tennis player ever (21 major titles).
Then on June 5th, at 36 years of age, Nadal with his chronic aching body, yet again, managed to win the French Open for a record 14th time. In a dominant performance in three sets (6-3, 6-3, and 6-0), he defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud to solidify his “King of Clay” status. In doing so, he reached his 22nd major titles separating himself from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic who were currently at 20 major titles.
Jogo played several pre-season games with Real Sociedad first team. On July 16 he played at Real Arena against Toulousse (where he played against former USL colleague: ), a week later on July 23rd (as a birthday 21st gift to his brother), he played in Germany against Joe Scally’s Mönchengladbach and had a direct impact on the only Txuri Urdi goal of the game.
Can’t remember what happened here of national relevance…
On July 10th, 35 year old Serbian Novak Djokovic won his 7th Wimbledon title and 21st grand slam overall. He continues to be one short of 36 year old Rafael Nadal’s overall grand slam record. 2023 should likely see the end of one of their careers unfortunately.
Jogo continued part-taking in playing pre-season games with RS first team. On August 5th, they played against Athletic Bilbao and he was fortunate enough to mark Iñaki Williams (Ghana’s National Team forward) and Qatar WC participant.
Joana, our daughter started her freshman year of high school…and with that other events are currently taking place (ex. driving permit, etc.). Embrace yourselves folks. On the bright side, we are now closer to retirement 🙂
For the life of me, I cannot think of a event of national relevance. I’m aging…
England’s Women’s Football team (aka Lionesses) won the Euro’s in a convincing fashion by defeating Spain (2-1), Sweden (4-0), and Germany (2-1) in the quarters, semis, and finals respectively. They had the support of the home fans and set the bar high for the men’s team.
Also on August 10, Champions League champion Real Madrid defeated Eintracht Frankfurt by a score of 2-0 to win the UEFA Super Cup adding another title to their trophy case.
Jogo is added to Real Sociedad’s A roster for the upcoming UEFA Europe league competition. He was part of several rosters but did not see any playing time…baby steps and we need to continue improving.
More importantly, in September 1st (Jogo’s birthday), Jogo’s twin cousin was born. Lucca Maldonado was born and yet as of the writing of this post, Jogo has not met him yet…
September was a memorable month for the world of tennis. On September 2nd, Serena Williams played her last official career match at the US Open. She lost to Ajla Tomljanović in 3 sets. Tomljanović after the match said, “I’m feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do”
Three days later and despite having a great start in the US Open, Rafa Nadal was ousted, on September 5th, in the 4th round by American Frances Tiafoe in 4 sets . His 23rd major title will have to wait.
10 days later, on September 15th, Roger Federer unexpectedly announced his retirement after having dropped out of the top 50 ranking for the first time in his career.
On September 8th, Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96 years old. She was fortunate enough to have live through all World Cups (at the writing of this); however, she will have missed the Qatar WC when this post is finally published.
Jogo traveled with Real Sociedad to a few league games (October 19th -Mallorca, October 22nd -Valladolid) and UEFA games (October 27th -Omonia) but his debut was put on hold. The carrot continues to be flashed off and on…and our work needs to continue.
On October 2nd, Sergio Pérez won the Singapore Grand Prix. He was starting to position himself second (just behind his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen) in the 2022 Drivers Standings. In the following race, in Japan, Max ended up winning the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship and in the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, the Red Bull team won it. Pérez finished the season with 305 points, with 2 wins, 1 pole position, 11 podiums and 3 fastest laps, his best season in Formula 1 yet.
On October 21, French footballer Karim Benzema received 89 out of 93 possible votes and finally won the Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career. He played an instrumental role in helping Real Madrid win the 2021-2022 La Liga, the 2021-2022 UEFA Champions League and the 2020-2021 UEFA Nations League with France.
On November 6th, Johan scored his third brace since he joined FSV Zwickau. The first goal came via a PK and the second goal is below. FSV Zwickau went on to defeat Joe Enoch’s former club Osnabruck at home by a score of 4-3.
On November 5th, the Houston Astros won the MLB World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies in a best of seven series. The American League Champions (Astros) defeated the National League Phillies in six games. The 118th series was notable for having the first World Series no-hitter since the 1956 World Series perfect game. Astro’s pitchers Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, and Ryan Pressly achieved a combined no-hitter in game-4. It was only the third no-hitter in MLB history. Personally, we were happy to see hall of famer, ex-Dodger outfielder Dusty Baker win his first World Series at 73 years of age.
On the same day, LAFC won the MLS Cup over the Philadelphia Union in an unforgettable and very dramatic come from behind game for LAFC. The championship game lived up to the hype and went to kicks from the spot thanks to a last minute 2nd overtime goal by Wales star Gareth Bale. LAFC would prevail in PKs before their home crowd. November 5th will go down in history as one of the worse days in Philadelphia’s sports history.
On November 20, the FIFA Qatar World Cup was inaugurated. In its 22nd edition and played for the first time in the November-December timeframe, the host nation played Ecuador to a 0-2 scoreline. Qatar, became the first nation to lose their inaugural match. In fact, they lost all three matches to Ecuador, Senegal, and Netherlands.
From a football perspective, December was a very exciting month for fans; most of the knockout WC games with record-breaking goals scored, took place in the first two weeks. Similarly, many other records were established in this WC. For example, the Qatar WC marked the first time an all-women referee crew officiated a WC game. There were many other records broken which made the games very memorable.
Both boys came home to spend Christmas with us for the second consecutive year. Even though, it was a short-lived visit, it was a blessing to have them with us. They headed back to their respective clubs for New Years and we hope they have very healthy and successful 2023 years respectively.
…oh and btw, Johan scored this beauty in a friendly.
On December 3rd, Netherlands eliminated the USMNT from the Qatar World Cup by a score of 3-1. Some US fans thought Louis Van Gaal gave Gregg a tactical masterclass and the game got out of hand early. Despite the loss, the USMNT was the best CONCACAF team in the tournament and left a good impression that accompanied with a lot of work, could turn into something special when the 2026 WC is hosted in Canada, Mexico, and the US.
Mexico continued its football decadence at the different national team levels: U20, U23, WNT, MNT, etc. The silver lining will be that Mexico beat the only team who defeated Argentina and only lost to the eventual World Cup Champion.
On December 17th, in one of the most dramatic FIFA WC finals, Argentina prevailed over France in a PK shoot-out and won its third (1978, 1986, and 2022) WC title. Messi, likely playing his last WC, was finally able to not only capture the MVP accolade but also the only trophy that had eluded him in his career.
Unfortunately, December, like last year’s when ex-NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden passed away, once again brought us some notable deaths at the global stage:
Pele – December 29th
Pope Benedict XVI – December 31st
This year will be a year where I will personally focus a lot on my well-being. Tough decisions will be made but an overall focus shift will be made. On the children’s side, I am looking forward how their football journeys continue to develop. We as parents are more interested in seeing how they continue to develop good members of society and the legacy they leave behind.
2023 promises to be a year of new faces emerging as Nadal and Djokovic relinquish their long-time dominance of the sport. I am particularly interested in seeing whether Novak Djokovic can win a record-tying 22nd grand slam.
If you made it this far, congrats. Be sure to follow us in Instagram and Twitter where we are more active.
Two of the recently finished World Cup (WC) quarterfinal games reminded us that penalty kicks (PKs) shoot-outs are not the prettiest way to decide the outcome of a football match. PK shoot-outs are normally very dramatic, preceded by at least 120 minutes of intense (in most cases) action and some detractors tout them as the most unfair method to declare a match winner. Their argument is that the shoot-out relies heavily on luck rather than football skill. It has also been said that PKs are a dual effort instead of a collective team effort defeating the purpose of the team sport spirit.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Whatever your perception may be on overall luck and shoot-outs, a PK shoot-out is an approved method by FIFA laws to break a tie. Also, nobody can deny that being directly involved in the taking of even a single PK (more so a shoot-out) requires some level of technical preparation (sometimes years) and individual mental fortitude (aka nerve). Therefore, any edge that can be gained over the opponent to increase the chances of victory in a PK shoot-out is always welcome. Often neglected, that advantage can easily come from one’s bench. A coach’s experience is a very valuable tool if applied correctly and timely.
PK Shoot-out Preparation
I will not dwell too much on the pre-game efforts that the goal keeper (GK) coach, the team video analysis specialist, the team statistician, and the GKs themselves must undergo prior to embarking on a match that could be decided in a PK shoot-out. The preparation is not complex but indeed meticulous. It starts with trying to anticipate which five potential PK kickers will take a turn and study their PK kicking tendencies. On top of that, each GK has his/her own defensive diving tendencies to attempt to block PKs. Simply put, it comes down to video-analyzing the potential PK kickers to slightly increase the GK’s odds of stopping PKs.
Similarly, PK takers need to undergo a lengthier preparation which starts much earlier in their football careers than the upcoming game at hand. For example, in some youth leagues around the world, match ties are not allowed forcing PKs intentionally. Match outcomes are decided via a PK shoot-out with the underlying idea of developing better PK adult kickers who are not only more used to the added pressure but more technically sound in the art of PK taking via lots of repetitions. PK kickers rarely analyze GK tendencies as those diving techniques are reactive and situational.
All that pre-match preparation for PK kickers is indispensable and must be met at a minimum to be even considered as a genuine PK taker candidate especially at a world stage like a WC. However, there are meticulous decisions that must be made in the selection of the PK takers and the sequence in which PKs are taken by a team. Sure, luck (the coin tosses explained below) helps but the coach’s experience has a strong influence in the outcome of the shoot-out.
PK Shoot-out Execution
Some coaches will tell you that only those physically, and mentally fit prior to the taking of PKs should be eligible, listed and submitted to the referee as the initial five PK takers. Others will defer that decision to the players and captain. Ultimately, the coach knows his/her players best and it is best that those five PK takers are pre-determined and only changed in case of an unplanned event (ex. injury, red card, etc.). So, provided a manager has five physically and mentally capable PK kickers, then other decisions should be made by the coach and captain to maximize the chances of victory.
Normally, the referee will use two coin tosses prior to the taking of PKs. The winner of the first coin toss selects the side where PKs will be taken (Introduced in 2016). The winner of the second coin toss determines what team starts the PK shoot-out (Lloris won this one in the WC final). Yes, on this part of the procedure, there’s an element of luck but provided your captain wins both or either one of these coin tosses, instructions must be provided to the captain so that he/she choose the goal where most of your club’s supporters are; Messi probably conquered the Qatar WC the moment he won this first coin toss and selected the side that was plagued by Argentinian fans. On the second coin toss outcome, heed the following advice:
1.For advantages proven by simple statistics/research papers and psychological reasoning (beyond the scope of this simple post), a team captain, if able, should always elect to take the PKs first in a shoot-out. In a gist, it puts additional pressure on the players going second regardless of the outcome of the first kick. Therefore, ALWAYS elect to shoot first if you win the second coin toss. This is the way Morocco eliminated Spain from Qatar.
2. Always (I mean always) have your best PK kickers go first. In Brazil’s loss to Croatia in the WC quarterfinal game, Neymar was supposed to get all the glory by kicking last (5th). Unfortunately, quite the opposite took place. the team had the youngest (Rodrygo) of all PK kickers go first and that proved to be a decision they will regret forever. Neymar never had a chance to take his PK. It was possibly Neymar’s last WC game and to go out like that is unfortunate…Neymar and Tite (no longer the national team coach) will have to live with that decision.
As an additional data point, in the WC final game, both Mbappé and Messi went first. Both are no strangers to PK taking. Despite Mbappé having scored two PKs during the course of the championship game on Martínez, Kylian (and Didier DeChamps) elected Mbappé to go a third time (all kicked to the same side) against one of the best PK GKs in the world. He converted all three attempts and set the tone for the next PK (or at least that was the plan).
3. The first PK taker dictates momentum. Over 60% of the time when the first PK misses his/her shot, the following PK taker from the same team misses too. Therefore, carefully selecting the first PK taker is instrumental to the team’s success. If there are two medium quality PK kickers, do not, by any means, have them take kicks one after another in the round of five. In the WC final game, Coman missed his kick immediately followed by Tchouameni.
4. Managers sometimes forget that great players are not necessarily great PK takers. For example, in the Netherlands vs Argentina game, Van Dijk elected to take the team’s PK first; however, he’s not the normal PK taker with his Liverpool club (Mo Salah is). Unfortunately, the lack of practice became evident as his attempt was blocked by Emi Martínez. This proved to be a questionable decision by a very experienced Coach Louis Van Gaal.
The coin tosses are determined by an element of luck; beyond that, preparation pays off. In addition to field player and GK preparation, a manager (and his/her staff) has a lot of weight on the outcome of a PK shoot-out with careful thought-out decisions. Whether the manager and captain assume/want that responsibility is a different story. Either way, preparation is key and an initial 50% chance of victory in a shoot-out can easily become more like a 75% if preparation is taken seriously. As I was finalizing documentation to wrap up my post, I stumbled upon this article posted about 8 years ago titled “How to Win a PK shoot-out in soccer“. Ironically, a lot of the information presented in that article supports my post.
As I finish writing this post, I became aware of the passing of football’s legend: Pelé. Honestly, I can’t say this was unexpected as he had been hospitalized in Brazil for over a month and I tried to keep up with his medical progress which never seemed to improve. But even with that information, I can’t deny it was shocking; it’s hard to accept that in a little over than 2 years, the best two footballers, that in my opinion, have ever played the game now reside with the football gods…where they have cemented a place.
Until next time (tomorrow) when I will be posting our annual 2022 recap of events. Have a happy and safe New Year celebration. Be sure to follow us on Instagram below where we are more active. #theGomezway
Ya en una publicación del año pasado, les habíamos compartido lo complicado que había sido que en el verano del 2019 el club de Jogo lo soltara para una convocatoria de selección juvenil Mexicana. Inaudito pero verídico. En esta ocasión, la Real Sociedad nunca puso alguna traba y siempre mantuvo informado al jugador sobre la convocatoria. De hecho, casi le rogaron para que acudiera a pesar de que la convocatoria era para un partido amistoso en una fecha NO designada por FIFA y además se podría perder un juego de liga.
Uno como aficionado tan sólo puede imaginarse lo gratificante que es para un jugador ser convocado (y además acudir) a un llamado especialmente de “la mayor” (ó como dicen en España “la absoluta”). Tal honor, a veces, involucra una logística impresionante y friamente calculada que puede parecer apresurada especialmente si el jugador viaja una distancia continental. Aun así, los aficionados merecen todo el respeto de dirigentes, jugadores, y cuerpo técnico y por más complicadas que las condiciones puedan ser, hay que salir a dar el máximo por los colores de la playera que se porte. Aquí les compartimos un poco de los viajes que tanto Jogo como nosotros realizamos a Orlando, Florida para cumplir con su única convocatoria con la selección mayor de México.
Todavía en España, Jogo jugó partido de liga (importantísimo para el tema de descenso) el Sábado 23 de Abril en casa (contra Amorabieta) con la Real Sociedad B (Sanse) a las 9 AM CT y dos horas después de concluido el encuentro, ya tomaba un taxi para trasladarse a Bilbao (1 hora de distancia de San Sebastián). En Bilbao, pernoctó para que a la mañana siguiente tomara un vuelo a Londres (escala de dos horas) a las 12 AM CT y finalmente arribara a su destino final en Orlando el Domingo 24 de Abril por la tarde-noche. El coordinador (Daniel) de selecciones nacionales, se sacó un 10 con el viaje de España a Orlando. El vuelo de regreso fue diametralmente opuesto ya que estuvo muy tardado y bueno, fue aquí donde Jogo apenas alcanzó a llegar al siguiente partido del Sanse y con ningun día de entrenamiento, fue directo a la banca. El precio de la convocatoria.
Por los tiempos tan limitados con el resto del grupo, las prácticas fueron bastante ligeras, recreacionales y culminaron con reconocimiento de cancha el Martes 26 por la noche. Jogo apenas si tuvo tiempo de conocer algunos jugadores, y cuerpo técnico e integrarse lo más pronto posible para el partido del Miércoles. A veces nosotros los aficionados exigimos “química máxima” en la cancha desconociendo lo poco/mucho tiempo de trabajo que un entrenador (en este caso Tata Martino no pudo acudir) tiene con sus jugadores. Como también es sabido, hay algunos compromisos comerciales que la seleccion nacional tiene que cumplir por temas con mas planeación económica que de índole deportiva.
La familia cercana, como siempre apoyando, logró alcanzar a Jogo en Orlando hasta el Martes 26 de Abril ya casi a media noche. En realidad, nos arriesgamos un poco ya que cualquier contratiempo con nuestro vuelo desde Texas, nos hubiera obligado a salir el Miércoles, mismo día del partido, y alguna demora adicional nos hubiera obligado a perdernos esta experiencia única. Gracias a Dios, todo salió bien.
Arribamos al hotel donde se hospedaba la selección a las 11 PM hora local. Practicamente llegamos a saludar a Jogo, que justo terminaba sus clases de preparatoria del día y a dormir en otro piso. Brevemente le dimos las buenas noches ya que había que irse a dormir para estar listo para el juego del día siguiente. Las medidas de seguridad cuidando el entorno de la selección son excelentes.
Día del partido
El día del partido (Miércoles) nos levantamos relativamente tarde debido al ajetreo del día anterior. Bajamos a platicar con Jogo mientras gozabamos de un rico lonche en el hotel; en realidad, fue poco el tiempo pero memorable. Tan sólo pudimos convivir unos minutos ya que el equipo tenía actividades planeadas para el resto del día.
Ya por la tarde, así partía el autobús que escoltado por un dispositivo policial impresionante, llevaba al equipo y a Jogo al Estadio Camping World de Orlando con varias horas de anticipación al inicio del encuentro. Nosotros los alcanzaríamos horas después.
Ya en el estadio, así lucía el inmuelbe antes del partido. El encuentro, parte del MexiTour organizado por SUM, era el primer partido amistoso después de que México consiguiera el boleto para el Mundial Catar 2022 así que los aficionados estaban muy ilusionados de ver un cuadro joven y diferente. Por otro lado, Guatemala, comandado por el estratega Mexicano Fernando Tena, venía de 7 victorias consecutivas lo cual se apetecía como buen sinodal.
El partido en si resultó un tanto monótono por la falta de llegadas en ambos arcos. México dominó la mayor parte del encuentro sin poder ver coronada su mayor posesión. Al final del partido, ninguno de los equipos se hizo daño. Sin embargo, la familia la pasó muy bien en la tribuna con un ambientazo semi-familiar.
Jogo jugó pocos minutos como era de esperarse, especialmente porque hubo invasión de cancha en los minutos que estuvo presente. A veces los aficionados en un afán de divertirse, afectan a su equipo de forma indirecta (grito). Inclusive en la tribuna, la pasión de los aficionados se desborda a tal nivel que se torna en violencia no apta para familias. En fin, la idea de la convocatoria era para que Jogo conociera el entorno de la selección mayor y ese objetivo se cumplió.
Al culminar el partido, nos reunimos con Jogo para charlar antes de nuestro regreso a tierras Texanas ya que partíamos de Orlando el Jueves por la madrugada (4 AM). No lo vamos a negar, las despedidas siempre son complicadas pero en este caso, sabíamos que veríamos a Jogo un mes después asi que eso nos recomfortó. Por su parte Jogo no partió rumbo a España hasta el Jueves por la noche. Cuestionable la logística de regreso pero en fin, era lo que había. Dados los tiempos y las escalas, no alcanzó a practicar el Jueves en San Sebastián y sólo practicó hasta el Viernes. La falta de entrenamiento con el Sanse le costó tiempo de juego el Lunes 2 de Mayo contra Valladolid (ahora ascendido a primera) y un poco la titularidad lo que sobraba de la temporada. En fin, esas cosas contrastantes tiene una convocatoria para un partido amistoso…
Por nuestro lado y ya de regreso en casa, reflexionando sobre el viaje express, nos quedan muy claras dos cosas primordialmente: 1. El gran poder de convocatoria que sigue teniendo la selección nacional mayor a pesar de los resultados más recientes y 2. La reacción que puedan tener algunos aficionados para con Jogo (y nuestra familia) por solamente haber ido a jugar con la selección mayor de México un amistoso que a final de cuentas no decide su destino final.
Hay que recordar que el fútbol es tan sólo un deporte para aquellos que lo practican y un pasatiempo para aquellos que tan sólo lo observan. El fútbol nunca definirá nuestro nivel de nacionalismo, patriotismo y mucho menos nuestra personalidad. Afortunadamente, a través del deporte, podemos conocer a mucha gente y en ese proceso nos damos cuenta que las verdaderas amistades siempre trascenderán un encuentro de fútbol con selección X ó selección Z. Tengan por seguro que la camisa que Jogo porte, siempre la defenderá con honor y con el mayor deseo de la victoria. Por ahora hay cosas que están fuera de nuestro alcance y seguimos en esta lucha diaria y a la orden especialmente en días complicados. #theGomezway
No olviden seguirnos en Instagram para gozar de contenido más frecuente.
Germany has a very well defined tiered system of professional football leagues. Its hierarchy starts with 1.Bundesliga (first division) at the top and goes down to regional leagues (fourth division). The first two leagues (1.Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga) are governed by the German Football League while the 3.Liga along with the five regional leagues are governed by the German Football Association. All leagues are professional (fourth division is a mixed bag with some amateur players) with strong fanbases, and their own football stadiums/facilities.
Recently, there have been many American footballers who have played in the 3.Liga: Terrence Boyd, Lennard Maloney, Chris Richards, Jalen Hawkins, Taylor Booth, Bryang Kayo, Johan Gómez, and many others. Similarly, there have also been American footballers playing in the different regional leagues (4th division): Joel Bustamante (Hertha II), Nico Carrera (Holstein Kiel II), Quincy Butler (Hoffenheim II), Justin Che (Hoffenheim II), Matthew Hoppe (Schalke II), Michael Edwards (Wolfsburg II), Uly Llanez (Wolfsburg II), Blaine Ferri (Greuther Furth II), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach II) and many others in the past.
Some footballers (those on affiliate teams) have used the regional leagues as a stepping stones to the 1.Bundesliga (aka Bundesliga) or other top tier leagues around Europe. Bundesliga clubs like Wolfsburg, Bayern, Hoffenheim, Borussia Mönchengladbach, etc. have their affiliates in the regional leagues therefore making a jump from 4th division to Bundesliga is not only realistic, easier but common (ex. Matthew Hoppe, Chris Richards, Taylor Booth, Alphonso Davies, Uly Llanez, etc.).
As the German market continues to welcome young American footballers, it’s important to highlight a few of its characteristics for families and players seeking opportunities in that market. Since last July, when Johan joined the 3.Liga, we have learned a few things that are worth sharing and comparing with USL/MLS, Bundesliga or even other European leagues.
Before we start, it’s important to note that German football is very sound tactically; on the technical side, it’s different than other leagues around the world (ex. South American, MLS, Liga MX) that may have a Latin flair to them. To be fair, very few leagues compare to the flair South American football offers and the German market has indeed very few South American players in it. The brand of football played in Germany however, strives to perfect team and individual football fundamentals or at a minimum, seeks to minimize football mistakes.
The destination is often more important than the journey. As a result, the 3.Liga is not the most aesthetical appealing league; however, week in and week out, one can see the parity of teams fighting for either promotion or relegation. Chris Richards talks about the 3.Liga level relative to the Bundesliga in this recent Chumchat episode:
Just like the Bundesliga, the 3.Liga has a few clubs with deeper pockets. It differs significantly from MLS where financial parity is a continuous goal (ex. no draft in Bundesliga). However, unlike the Bundesliga, the 3.Liga is not setup to be dominated by the same clubs (ex. Bayern Munich recently winning their 10th consecutive Bundesliga championship) every season. By design, the 3.Liga can’t be dominated by the same clubs every season as there’s the concept of promotion (and relegation). Out of the 20 clubs that compete in the 3.Liga every season, the top clubs get promoted to the 2.bundesliga and the bottom clubs get relegated to the fourth division of their respective regional leagues based on geographic location.
As a recent example of the impact money has on club survival, the owner of 3.Liga, club Türkgücü, disappointed with the season team results, opted to stop the cash influx to the club. As a result, and for the first time since the 3.Liga inception, the team was unable to fulfill their financial obligations and was immediately relegated to a regional league two thirds through the season.
Bundesliga being the top tier league only has relegation with some matches not being very competitive due to the financial disparity between teams. On the other hand, both 2.Bundesliga and 3.Liga are very competitive where the outcome of any match cannot be predicted with ease. The top two tiers of the bundesliga have an automatic promotion/relegation for the top/bottom two clubs. The third/antepenultimate top/bottom clubs play a home and away playoff series to determine who gets promoted/relegated.
The 3.Liga does not follow the above playoff relegation format verbatim. Instead, the bottom four clubs are relegated automatically to the regional leagues without the need of playoffs. For example, in the 2020-2021 season, while 2003 born Justin Che played for Bayern II, the team was relegated to the fourth division where it’s currently playing this season. Note: Justin has now moved on to the Hoffenheim setup where he was recently playing fourth division football; however, he also recently made his Bundesliga debut (congrats Justin). Similarly, when Chris Richards was playing 3.Liga with Bayern Munich II, the team finished first; however, there’s a rule that prevents affiliate teams to be promoted to the 2.Bundesliga.
Direct game / Speed of play
The 3.Liga speed of play is not as fast as English football League One (3rd division in England) mostly because German players historically have displayed a higher technical skill level which forces them to play the ball on the ground more. However, the 3.Liga is similar to League One in its physicality. German footballers are not extremely athletic (ex. agile, strong, and fast) when compared with other ethnic profiles but their cultural pursuit of perfectionism permeates to their football leagues. That pursuit of perfection is reached via repetition and Germans more than compensate from “their perceived” lack of athleticism with strong football fundamentals and work rate.
As physical as the 3.Liga is, there are not many penalty kicks (PKs) calls which translates into a lack of player confrontations. Most games (and this could be a German culture aspect) are played in their purest form without many (if any) simulations (ex. diving) or time wasting strategies like the South American style. Referees seem competent; however, it’s fair to say that most of our experience assessing referees has taken place while there’s been a limited fan base at the stadiums. In every part of the world, fans play an instrumental role trying to influence referees decisions. Thus, since there’s no simulation, it makes calling penalty kicks that much easier. It could also be that the lack of VAR provides referees the freedom and confidence to make mistakes and live with those decisions.
Referees strive to maintain the flow of the games; the decreased frequency of foul occurrences helps in that regard. They also have more game time responsibilities since there’s no fourth referee/official in the 3.Liga. Therefore, normally a team official is in charge of making/calling the subs from the center referee and indicating the injury time to the audience. Let’s be clear though, no other fourth official duties are delegated to team officials.
Throw ins get their own section as we have seen a complete deterioration in the calling of throw-ins especially in Germany. Anything from not having both feet on the ground to having one foot inside the pitch. Unfortunately, this tendency is not unique to the 3.Liga. In fact, it’s been more pronounced in the Bundesliga. However, there’s plenty of consistency with the calling of ball handling or those commonly referred to in the US as “handballs”. It’s worth noting that some refereeing tendencies are temporary but we figured it’s worth mentioning.
German fans are very passionate about football and they show it every week. The Bundesliga is the number one league in the world in attendance. Their football infrastructure is on par with that statistic. The German Football Association requires 3. Liga teams to play in stadiums of at least 10,000 seats. Their football infrastructure easily surpasses that minimum requirement.
In the 3.Liga, Johan has had the privilege of playing in stadiums that were used for World Cups (ex. 2006 and 1974). In fact, it was in Munich’s Olympic stadium that he scored his first brace in Germany. As a form of comparison, the football infrastructure capacity in the 3.Liga is better than Spain’s second division.
All that being said, the brand of football played in Spain’s second division is better than 3.Liga’s, and 2.Bundesliga. However, In terms of other infrastructure (ex. TV rights), both leagues offer paid subscriptions (domestic and internationally) for football fanatics. Overall the 3. Liga has audience numbers that are comparable to the second football leagues in Italy (Serie B), France (Ligue 2) and Spain (Segunda División). Only the third-rate English football league One has similarly high or higher attendance numbers.
The 3.Liga is a nationally televised league which allows the players to earn a significantly higher average salary than a league like USL-1/MLS Pro (3rd division in the US) or Liga Expansion in Mexico (3rd division in Mexico) but as expected lower than English League one. As stated above, some German clubs have deeper pockets partly due to stronger fan bases and sponsorships.
Most of the Bundesliga teams are scattered in west Germany while 3.Liga teams are scattered all over.
Ironically (from a geographical standpoint), 3.Liga teams often travel by bus while Bundesliga clubs (with larger budgets) fly mostly but ride team buses occasionally due to their proximity to other clubs.
Now that Johan is wrapping up his first season in the 3.Liga, he’s playing the analogous of our US Open Cup (SachsenPokal). One day he’ll play in a huge (used for past world cups or Olympic) stadium and the next week, his team will play in a more discrete stadium. All are great memories whose pictures can be found in the “Stadiums” section of this blog.
Johan’s move to the 3.Liga
In the Chumchat episode below, Johan talks about the reasons for his move to FSV Zwickau. He elaborates on his current situation in a German market where he is consistently playing first team minutes, impacting the game, and playing an instrumental role while continuing to develop his overall game as a versatile young player. In the episode, he reminisces about his time in Porto where he could have stayed an extra year and maybe could have been making first team rosters this year like his former Porto B teammates. In his head, it probably would have been an additional season of limited playing time with the first team. Each player’s ambitions are unique; some players are more willing to wait for a first team debut (plenty of examples in the Bundesliga.1 and Bundesliga.2 with American players) while others (Johan) not so much. It is also about opportunity. This season, has been a very rewarding experience in Germany.
BTW, enjoy one of the most recent Chumchat episodes with dual national Julian Araujo. He mostly talks about his decision-making process choosing to represent Mexico. A decision that very few players (let alone fans) will ever understand but that is becoming more frequent…
As always, if you want to read about a particular topic, please reach out via any of a social media accounts. #theGomezWay
Now that international borders are pretty much open, I decided to pay Jogo a visit in Spain. It was a trip that had been in the works ever since Claudia and Joana returned from dropping Jogo off about seven weeks ago. They spoke highly of the Donostia-San Sebastián (from here on out, referred to DSB -for short) attractions so I had to come and experience it for myself.
For those of you who have inquired about the possibility of visiting Jogo, you may find this post useful or it may totally dissuade you from visiting him due to the logistics involved. Either way, it contains some relevant (somewhat detailed) travel information and some caveats. It’s worth noting that now, more than ever, airline prices are very competitive and you can easily book a $500 round trip to DSB as long as you plan it well. Jogo will gladly welcome you with open arms (especially if you bring him goodies) and likely even give you tickets to one of his games while you are visiting. This is how the trip to DSB and my first week is going…
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
A week ago today, I left home in Keller at 2:20 PM CST for a 4:59 PM CST Delta flight to Atlanta, GA. For a Thursday afternoon, the TSA lines at DFW were busier than normal but I made it through security by 3:05 PM CST which worked well with my football agenda. I then found a quiet place to work for about 90 minutes while watching the Leipzig vs Real Sociedad Europa League game and once it finished (final score: 2-2), waited a few minutes to board the flight to Atlanta. Unfortunately, the bad weather in Atlanta delayed our take off until 6 PM CST. Could that be a sign of what was about to come my way? I mean, everything had been carefully planned out but God’s plans always prevail…
After a 90 minute flight, I landed in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with plenty of time to spare due to an also delayed flight (things were not looking good already) to Amsterdam (more to come on the reason for the 2nd delay later) and although I had time to sit down to eat a full meal, I opted to just get a snack and work some more instead.
Our plane to Amsterdam finally took off around 11:10 PM CST (originally scheduled for 9:30 PM CST due to impending bad weather in the Netherlands) and off we went for 8 hours under very rainy Atlanta (not cold at all) conditions but at last, we were in the air.
The turbulence was crazy but that’s not the reason I didn’t sleep much during the flight. I even had the two available seats right next to me for extra space. The excitement of seeing Jogo perhaps was too much so I read, ate, and watched the second part of “A Quiet Place” for the second time.
Amsterdam is one of the many choices for a layover in Europe; others options are London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, etc. To be honest, Amsterdam was a bit of a handful this time and I may not stop there in the near future.
We landed in Amsterdam around 1:30 PM local time (6:30 AM CST) and my next flight was on time and scheduled to depart at 2:25 PM local time (7:25 AM CST). As soon as I disembarked, I rushed to the other side of the airport, dashed through customs and made my way to the B terminal in about 30 minutes. All of this took place while the airport’s PA system was continuously announcing that all airport activities would be suspended for the day after 2 PM local time (7 AM CST) due to high wind tropical storm Eunice. Departing at 2:25 PM (7:25 AM CST) was very unlikely due to the announcements but at last, by the grace of God, they let us depart. We were literally the last plane allowed to take off out of Amsterdam and off we went to Bilbao…
It is worth noting that last time I visited DSB back in July with the family, we had a layover in Paris and that worked out well despite the spike in summer travel. Maybe I’ll try it again next time. Similarly, last month, when Claudia came over to accompany Jogo, their layover was in Frankfurt without any delays. Ironically, by making a Frankfurt stop, she was closer to Zwickau (Johan) than she was to DSB. She will be making a Germany trip to see Johan very shortly as well.
We landed at 4:58 PM local time (9:58 AM CST), and everything appeared okay initially until I was informed that the US is considered a high risk country so they had me take a COVID test upon arrival (I showed them all proper documentation of my 3 doses ). Fortunately, the test result was negative but we now had just added an additional 45 minutes to my already long trip. Honestly, I am unsure what the protocol would have been had I tested positive.
Once released from the airport’s COVID testing center, I quickly headed to the luggage carrousel to pick up my checked-in luggage. Unfortunately, I found a static conveyor belt with only one bag similar to mine, it had to be mine, right?…well, it wasn’t and a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. Ultimately, I knew the situation in Amsterdam was very critical and was very certain that my luggage had been left behind there due to the narrow time window and more so, inclement weather.
I then proceeded to the KLM customer service counter at the airport and sure enough, they were waiting for me with very specific instructions to receive my luggage. I then filled out some paperwork, submitted a claim (with Jogo’s DSB new home address) and was informed that I would have my luggage within 24 hours. They weren’t kidding. I got it the next day in DSB.
Luggage-less, I then made my way to the small Bilbao airport’s public transportation area. There’s no Uber in the city so my transportation choices were limited: finding my own private ride, or public transportation (a bus/taxi) to DSB. It’s about a 100 km ride to DSB’s bus station and a pleasant ride. The bus is a greyhound style type of bus whose cost is about €17 with plenty of room even if you are traveling with big suitcases.
It was a no brainer, since I only had my backpack to carry, I opted to take the bus. To purchase a ticket for it, there’s a kiosk outside of the airport but a debit/credit card is needed (caveat: you will need your card PIN to complete the transaction). Since I didn’t know my CC pin, I ended up paying cash to the bus driver. Make sure you don’t have large denomination bills (ex. > 50) to pay for your ticket as change may not be readily available. During the ticket purchasing ordeal, I saw the “bad guys” transportation parked outside the airport which was a little puzzling. Players fly but the bus still makes the trip? Interesting concept.
Donostia-San Sebastián (DSB)
I finally arrived to DSB’s bus station of the paradisiac area on Friday evening 8:30 PM local time (1:30 PM CST). I did not get to see the sunset since it was dark already but here is what I was able to witness the next few mornings. It’s breath-taking. From the DSB’s bus station to Jogo’s apartment, it’s a 30 minute walk which I was glad to embark on since I’d been sitting down for so long. Plus, I needed the Fitbit steps.
Jogo’s first game
The next day, Jogo got me a ticket to watch his game; it was very exciting to watch it live. Entertaining match for sure. It was Jogo’s home debut and I was able to watch him live which was my primary objective. He made the starting 11 so anything else didn’t matter at that point for me.
Much needed result by Sanse but we try not to emphasize results over journeys when our kids are part of the game. We have Twitter fans who provide plenty of expert football analysis. It was a great game for me to watch and the best welcome gift Jonathan could have ever given me. As some of you may know, watching the game live beats any other watching method as one is able to see the off the ball movement that cameras do not normally capture. Also, there are a lot of intangibles (ex. fans, weather, referee, etc.) that are not portrayed accurately on TV that ultimately impact the player and the game. Witnessing those live is priceless. In the end, Jogo had a hockey assist and a near goal-line save. It was the second time in the same week impacting the score line. Hopefully he can continue earning minutes this week.
Europa League knockout game
As I wrap up this post up, I am heading to watch the Europa League knockout match between RS and Lepzig at Reale Arena with Jogo. It will be the second time in the past three months that I will have watched Tyler Adams (if he plays). The previous time was against Neymar, Mbappe, etc. at Red Bull Arena in Lepizig for a Champions League match back in November.
My first time watching a Europa League game was a match between FC Porto vs Young Boys back in September of 2019 at Estádio do Dragāo. Porto beat Young Boys 2-1. Great football memories watching Tecatito et al with Johan.
Jogo’s next game
Sanse’s next game is in Oviedo. I am looking forward to this one as I will be riding the bus (6 hour drive) to get there. I’ll probably spend a couple of nights sight-seeing the Asturias area as well. For now, I leave you with some images of the DSB area. I highly recommend it. It’s a paradise down here and other countries (ex. France and Portugal) are very close as well to top it all off.
This week’s guest is Jogo’s good friend Kevin Paredes. He talks about his adaptation period, harder training in Germany so far, short and long term goals and somehow, I get mentioned in this episode too. Kevin also talks about things to fix in the US Soccer’s approach to recruiting players and closes out with his own definition of success and emphasizes the role his family has played in his journey. Give the Chums a listen, they are improving their content with each episode and best of all, it’s free. You will also enjoy the next two USMNT guests.
Thanks for the read and as always reach out with any questions, requests, etc. #theGomezway
The German market has become a very enticing spot for young American footballers. For some, it’s become a stepping stone to bigger or different football stages. In a previous post regarding our first trip to Germany, I started to list a few peculiarities about visiting and living in Germany so this is more of a follow up hoping players, and families alike find it useful when their footballers (or any professionals) visit or make Germany their temporary home. Beware, some of the characteristics listed below apply to other European countries as well.
There is always the obvious nuances: culture, language, weather (for us Texans), currency, location, football style of play, etc. However, there are some specific aspects within those nuances that us Americans sometimes take for granted. Having spent half of the last three months living in Germany, I have noted a few peculiarities that I would like to highlight and share.
There’s a very important aspect that I would like to point out about Germans; they are known for their pursuit of perfection. They adhere strictly to a set of pre-established rules and values (and expect the same) such as: respect, efficiency, honesty, punctuality, social awareness, and other textbook characteristics. Most of their activities revolve around these values. Thus, in order to create a first good impression, it’s important to understand and honor these traits. After all, you are a visitor in their country.
For example, it’s important to adhere to punctuality because it could quickly work against you. A 5 PM meeting doesn’t mean 5:03 PM or 5ish. Be on time (early if possible); at first, it may be difficult because most Americans are very loose on punctuality. Also, as a environmentally friendly culture, Germans rely heavily on public transportation, and chances are you will have to use it when visiting. Despite city size (big or small); public transportation runs like clockwork so always be on time. Note: Uber is not available everywhere.
In bigger cities like Berlin or Frankfurt, English is more predominant, but don’t be fooled, Germans expect foreign nationals to attempt to learn their language. They value continuous learning and knowing a few common phrases can go a long way. Invest the time to learn something new everyday or prior to your arrival, if possible (reading this post counts).
Danke – Thank you
Please – Bitte
Guten Morgen – Good morning
Excuse me – Entschuldigen Sie, bitte
Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros? (Important in Prague)
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)
It may sound ironic that despite being surrounded by multiple countries, Germany is not as much of a melting pot as the US. It also depends the city you will be visiting or living in. Therefore, don’t assume everyone knows English given their geographic location. You may be in for a surprise especially in the smaller cities like Zwickau in East Germany.
At home we speak Spanish mostly with some English sprinkled in at times. That constant practice of multiple languages has enhanced our ability (verbal and written) to learn any Latin-derived language. Johan is fluent in Portuguese, I can read and write French pretty well, and Italian is extremely easy to understand for us. An outsider could think that we have the “learning a new language” skill down but that’s not the case with German…at least not yet. It’s not rocket-science but just like English, there are several regional variations of the German language. In my two trips to Germany, I have discovered that most older folks do not speak English -which forces me into conversational scenarios; seemingly, the older folks are not as good stewards as the younger generation to those of us trying to learn German. Be sure to have an translation app. or a dictionary handy when traveling.
After seven months of living there, Johan is now able to get by conversationally. Okay, he IS our son but he’s indeed a very smart young man. He recently started taking German classes (with Nico Carrera’s aunt) and will continue to improve everyday. He’s now acclimated to the culture and language. His teammates all speak English which has helped and of course, his coach Joe Enochs is American who is also fluent in German.
A lot of Germans live in apartments; that is because on average, Germans are more risk averse than Americans and are more comfortable leasing. Whether you own or rent, homes are not just smaller on average than in the US (I get it, everything is bigger in Texas) but they are also built differently. They are made of masonry which makes organic modifications to the building (interior or exterior) an elaborate task. Homes have to be designed efficiently from inception.
Most homes are not equipped with a central HVAC unit. Therefore, each room has its own heater (aka radiators). AC units are not common even in cities close to the sea (summers are very pleasant). It’s good to learn how to operate these units as the winters in some parts of Europe are harsh. Germany’s coldest months are January and February.
Most homes do not have dryers. Thus, the player may need to learn how to hang dry clothes after washing them. The winters may pose additional challenges to hang dry clothes indoors. There are several reasons why dryers are not popular in Europe (not just Germany):
Energy hoggers: Dryers are appliances that consume a lot of energy. Germans in general are very environment-conscious plus, the cost of energy is high.
Fines: Some German cities impose hefty fines to high energy spenders; Germans not only try to keep energy costs low but also avoid legal fees.
Clothes last longer: Clothes fade less when not machine-dried and thus typically have a longer lifespans. Hang-drying is very common even indoors
Most home windows open inwards: longways or sideways. Not only are they different but they are more energy efficient than US windows due to their triple or quadruple panes. Also, they allow better ventilation and are safer. It takes some getting used to with their multiple turning positions.
German drivers are required to have extensive training before they acquire their driver’s license. This training equips them for a spectrum of situations and as a result, driving in Germany is safer than in the US. It is hard to imagine having an autobahn in the US. Most Germans own manual transmission cars; however, this could be a trend in other western Europe countries as we experienced the same in Spain and Portugal. Leasing, purchasing or simply repairing an automatic transmission car is more expensive than a manual transmission one. Thus, it also makes financial sense to learn how to drive a manual transmission car before heading to Europe. You don’t want the young footballer to have to worry about learning to drive a manual transmission car, getting a driver’s license and on top of that, learning the traffic laws all at the same time.
Traffic lights are different. The transition to a green light goes through yellow (amber) first. Red->Yellow->Green unlike the United States and Mexico. Always be alert, there are traffic cameras everywhere. Be sure to honor speed limits; otherwise, you can quickly rack up speeding tickets fines. Speed limits do not have much margin for error (like in the US +/- 5 Mph). This is especially true in smaller cities (just like in the US) where speeding ticket revenue is relied upon heavily.
There’s nothing significantly different from the police other than they are present but their presence is not intimidating at all; I have never witnessed anybody getting pulled over. That being said, the “polizei” sirens are unique. They don’t really wail like our patrol cars; they have more of a pleasant sound. When I first heard them, the sound reminded me of the many Pink Panther French inspector cartoons I watched in my childhood.
Gasoline is really expensive even compared to the most affluent areas in the US. A liter of gas in Germany (about 25% of a gallon) costs about the same as a gallon of gas in Texas. A few months ago, the average gas price in Southeast (Saxon) Germany for a liter was €1.65. With those prices, one has to make each trip count which brings us to their environmental awareness and their heavy reliance on public transportation. There are some cities in Germany where certain car models are not allowed entry. They have high car emissions standards.
Germany ranks in the top 10 in the world for green countries. Germans are very environmentally conscious. One can see wind mills everywhere; the stored energy is used for multiple purposes.
Unfortunately, as green as the country is and as environmentally conscious as Germans strive to be, if you are a non-smoker like me, it will be difficult to get away from second hand smoke. A lot of public places are setup to be very inclusive and it’s inevitable to avoid second hand smoke. Thus, having a meal outdoors to enjoy the awesome summer weather could require some getting used to.
Speaking of public places, WiFi access (especially free) is extremely difficult to find unlike the US. Not only that, you will have to adjust your network provider’s data plan before you travel to Germany in order to get some decent cellular upload/download speeds. Otherwise, even playing a Twitter video will be impossible when not connected to WiFi. If you will reside in Germany, consider purchasing a phone and its corresponding data plan which gives you the benefit of having a local phone #.
Germany is beautiful. There are plenty of historical places in and around Germany for which you will want to take pictures and videos. Whether you are visiting or staying, make sure your data plan (and phone battery) is ready for all you will experience. We didn’t talk about the shortage of public electrical outlets in this post but those are also difficult to find so having an extra power bank is a good idea. You can revisit this post about “Going to trials, training stint? Checklist of what you may need Part 2” for additional peculiarities when traveling to Europe.
We will surely be visiting Germany (and other European countries) again soon. As we do that, we will continue to learn new “peculiarities” and will share them here. Until then. #theGomezway
Last year, we all begged for 2020 to end as we were ready to move on… now, here we are. Some would say we are better off while others may vehemently disagree. Personally, as the Gómez reflect upon what 2021 brought us, we must inevitably acknowledge some of the challenges at the global, and national levels of the past twelve months. Just like 2020 was a very tumultuous year from various view points: political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological to name a few, there is always the silver lining and we are grateful for the many lessons learned.
Our family was blessed in many ways but not without overcoming challenges. Reminiscing about this year’s events is a reminder to live each day at its fullest with no regrets. Thus, with a few days remaining in 2021, let’s recap some of the most notable events for our family and parallelly (especially sports) events around the nation and the world in chronological order. In the sporting side of things, 2021 could definitely be labeled as the year of the “sports resurgences” or better yet, “title droughts end“
After having spent the Christmas and New Year holidays with Johan in Portugal, Jogo finally returned home from successful Portuguese trials. We were very thankful for the invitations to train with different clubs during difficult times. Although opportunities with those clubs ultimately did not materialize, sometimes the journey starts with filtering out potential opportunities.
On January 6th, in an unfortunate turn of events, the US Capitol was invaded and attacked by a group of alleged President Trump’s supporters. Their objective was to overturn President Trump’s electoral defeat by disrupting a Congress session.
The Capitol was locked down and lawmakers evacuated while the rioters vandalized it. In the end, five people died with more than 140 people injured during the storming.
On February 1st, Jogo officially started his first LouCity pre-season. Frigid weather was awaiting the start of the first practice but that wasn’t going to be an impediment. In a fun, unplanned team-bonding activity, teammates, and members of the technical staff shoveled snow to make way for the first practice of the season. When one has clear objectives, a little cooler weather won’t stop the will to succeed…and on he went to his first practice of the season driving for the first time in treacherous conditions.
Winter storm Uri brought unprecedented weather which impacted the entire state of Texas (and some surrounding states) leaving millions of households without electricity or water. For us, the silver lining was that Joana and I were stranded at home for several days and we made a ton of memories surviving with basic stuff. We will cherish those moments forever. People all over the state came together to help in the most unexpected ways.
On February 7th, then-43 year old Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a franchise second Super Bowl LV (55th) victory. History was written as the Bucs became the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
In the process, Brady earned his 7th Super Bowl ring over heavily favorites reigning champs Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-9. He is the epitome of consistency.
FC Porto makes the difficult decision to rescind Portuguese legend Rui Barros‘ contract as the Porto B coach. The sacking unfortunately coincided with Johan’s nursing a slight knock. As the team quickly gets into a fierce Segunda Liga relegation fight (Welcome to Europe Johan), Johan sees his playing time gradually reduced. In an attempt to help Porto B survive the relegation battle, the new coach (Antonio Fòlha) started adding first team players to Porto B’s game day rosters which proved inefficient. In the last game of the season, in a lucky yet divine way, Porto B managed to stay in the second division, despite losing the derby against Benfica by a one goal (ultimately a point) difference and using 8 first team players in the game. Johan tells us about it in this article.
2021 was a memorable year for boxing legend deaths. On March 13th, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler passed away at the age of 66. Hagler was an undisputed middleweight champion, with his most-dominant performances coming in the 1980s when he defended his title 12 times. In 67 total fights, he was 62-3-2.
Other boxing legend deaths in 2021 included: Leon Spinks (February 5th) who is part of a very select group who once defeated the great Mohammad Ali.
BTW, this year, we also had the opportunity to visit the Louisville, Kentucky native Mohammad Ali museum. The museum is a must-see attraction if you are boxing fan -like I am- in the heart of downtown Louisville.
On March 27th, days after an Evergreen container ship became lodged in the Suez Canal blocking all commercial traffic, it was reported that it would take days to weeks to dislodge it. The 224,000 ton vessel first became lodged on March 23, with no sign of budging. On March 29, the rear of the ship was dislodged, but rescuers believed it would still take time to refloat the vessel and fully open the canal. On March 31, rescue missions failed yet again as rescuers announced that they may need to remove 706,000 cubic feet of sand in order to move it. Water may also need to be removed from around the area in order to remove the ship.
As a family, we made the calculated decision to allow me to spend a good portion of the USL-C season in Louisville to help Jogo out during this important year. After 60+ days of preseason, Jogo started regular season play on April 24th under then-coach John Hackworth. He performed well in a 2-0 victory over Atlanta United II. His first and last hockey assists for the season ironically coincided with his first and last games of the season.
On April 5th, the NCAA March Madness championship game was played at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. The big XII underdog Baylor Bears (which defeated my running horns) were crowned national champions by beating the then undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs by a score of 86-70. This was the first time the Men’s Baylor Basketball team won the championship game.
Upon FC Porto’s season conclusion, Johan briefly returned home after being away for an entire year and playing without fans. 2020 and 2021 will undoubtedly go down in the world history books as tough years for professionals and footballers were not the exception. Johan, playing exclusively as a midfielder, helped Porto B avoid relegation. FC Porto helped him become a more versatile player; however, we, as a family, ultimately made the difficult decision to leave the Portuguese market for the time-being. It was a tough, very tough decision. FC Porto is a great organization and the Portuguese market, like any other, has its nuances. Some may disagree and think that the Portuguese football market has historically been brutal for American players. Possibly true…we are working on a publication about the Portuguese football market. Porto as a city is such a beautiful, touristic, paradisiac place with a very easy language to learn. We’ll definitely miss it.
Meanwhile, Jogo received his first callup to the Mexican senior national team for training. During camp, he got to know all the players who were preparing for the new Nations League tournament.
At camp, Tecatito, and friend of Johan from Porto, confused Jogo with Johan and told him: “No mames gūey, se parecen un buen” (The resemblance of the two is incredible at times).
On May 30th and 23 years since their last league title, Mexico’s Liga MX Cruz Azul (my club) was crowned Guardianes’s champion reaching its 9th star after defeating Santos Laguna in both legs of the championship games. The victory hit close to home as the family bleeds blue. Without a doubt, its impact was felt internationally due to the many championship games Cruz Azul had previously lost in the most dramatic ways during those 23 years, and thus the inception of the verb: “cruzazulear“. A curse had been indeed broken. The game was extra special for all of me as Johan and I watched it together at home. Honestly, I shed a few tears of joy…
On June 6th, the USMNT defeated Mexico by a score of 3-2 in overtime to claim the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title. In a back and forth contest that had to go to overtime, the US team overcame a deficit twice. This would be the first of three victories by the USMNT over Mexico in 2021.
2021 marked what some would consider the end of Rafael Nadal era in major tennis tournaments. Nadal entered the French Open as the heavy favorite seeking to become the first man to win 21 majors and his 14th French Open. He reached the semifinals of the clay event where he encountered Novak Djokovic in a rematch of the previous year’s final. There, Nadal was upset by eventual champion Djokovic in four sets, in only his third-ever (two to Djokovic) loss at the French Open. Following his loss, Nadal withdrew from both Wimbledon and the Olympics citing a left foot injury. Prior to the French Open, Nadal had lost in the quarterfinals at another major: the Australian Open.
July was a very busy month in terms of sporting events and more so with championship stories that had not taken place in many decades in the international realm.
After a brief training period which included some scrimmages, Johan signed with FSV Zwickau. Managed by American Coach Joe Enochs who played alongside Gregg Berhalter, Johan opened another door in a different market for himself. He quickly showed his quality scoring a goal in his second friendly. Germany opened up its borders shortly after which allowed the family to go visit him and help him get settled in Zwickau. It was a memorable trip.
The closure of the US-Canada borders due to the pandemic forced the NHL to temporarily realign the teams in three US-based divisions and one Canadian division to limit travel. The top four teams in each division played each other with the winners of those games advancing to the divisional round. The four divisional playoff champions were then re-seeded by regular season points in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The winners of the Semifinals played each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. On July 7th, the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game 5 to win its 3rd NHL Stanley Cup Final.
On July 10th, Argentina (and Messi) finally won the 47th edition of Copa America by defeating archrival Brazil by a score of 1-0. I still remember watching Argentina’s last international tournament victory 28 years ago in 1993 vs Mexico. This trophy is ultimately what gave Messi the advantage to edge other footballers in the pursuit of yet another Golden Ball or Ballon d’Or.
The next day, on July 11th, Italy won the Euro 2020* by defeating England by a score of 3-2. Their last Euro was celebrated 53 years ago. For our family, it was a great moment having watched the Italy vs Spain semifinal game while in Spain.
COVID continued to impact the world of sports relentlessly. The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020 but a calculated decision was made to move them to 2021. It was an atypical Olympics without fans where, among many abnormalities, Simon Biles reminded us that it’s OK to not be OK. The USWNT wanted to return to their *normal* winning ways; however, in a surprising slow performance in bracket play, the team did not advance to the championship match. Instead, the team ended up earning a bronze medal against a tough Australian side by the score of 4-3 but underperforming in their journey.
We knew that the NBA was very popular in Mexico but now we have witnessed first hand how many fans follow it in Europe. To cement 2021 as the “come-backs” in sports other than football, after 50 years since their last championship in 1971, the Milwaukee Bucs defeated the Phoenix Suns in 6 games to win their 2nd franchise title.
Jogo suffered a slight knock in the game against Oklahoma City (played on turf) and missed Mexico’s first set of U20 MNT friendlies in Spain. Unfortunately, we are now experts at this type of adversity; in a similar fashion, back in 2020, Johan had missed the January U20 MNT camp and March friendlies due to injury and the pandemic respectively. Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitable part of this sport and yet, we, as a family, still struggle coping with these temporary setbacks. A few months afterwards, Jogo was fortunate enough to be selected again to play against France, and England in another Mexico U20 set of friendlies in Spain.
On August 1st, in another back and forth match, the USMNT defeated Mexico in overtime by a score of 1-0 to win the Gold Cup. This title marked the second consecutive victory in the summer over the Mexican rivals.
On August 10th, after 21 years spent at Barcelona, Messi and Barcelona part ways in an emotional yet expected announcement. A few days later, PSG announced the signing of the super star. His adaptation period in France has been nothing but easy so far.
September was a great month on the personal footballing side of things…
On September 1st, Jogo celebrated his 18th birthday and became eligible to sign with a European club. As a family, we had traveled to Spain in preparation for this event. On September 30th, the announcement was finally made public by LouCity and Real Sociedad. Read all about it in the link above.
I moved to Zwickau Germany for about 5 weeks to live with Johan. I loved every minute of it; we had not lived at the same place since he was 15. I’m grateful we got to spend some quality time together and I got to learn about a different culture during COVID times.
On October 14th, former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies of COVID-19 complications at age 84. Powell was the first Black U.S. secretary of state serving from 2001-2005, and had shaped foreign policy in leadership roles in a number of Republican administrations. RIP Colin Powell.
LouCity’s season ended prematurely in an abrupt and dramatic way at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies again in the Eastern Conference final game. Our family made the trip to St. Petersburg to support Jogo.
UEFA Champions League
On November 3rd, while I was still in Germany, Johan surprised me with tickets to attend our first Champions League game together in Red Bull Arena in Leipzig. We are making this a tradition, when he was at Porto, we had had the opportunity to watch Porto vs. Young Boys.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see Messi but we got to see Mbappe, Neymar, and the player who stole the show: “el fideo” DiMaria. The final 2-2 score did not disappoint. Spending time with my oldest: priceless. Looking forward to the next one Johan.
We indeed closed the year in a strong way by attending some other important international games.
Following the UEFA Champions League game, on November 15th, I attended the World Cup Qualifying game between USA vs Mexico game in Cincinnati. TQL stadium. It was a unique experience. The US squad beat Mexico for a third time in 2021. This time the score was another 2-0.
On November 2nd, the Atlanta braves won their 4th world series. This time, they convincingly defeated the Houston Astros (7-0) in the 6th game of the series.
On November 8th, after 20 months of having its international borders shut down, the US decides to open them back up. Unfortunately, I traveled back home from Germany on that day and the trip became longer than usual as security lines were super long. Patience is indeed a virtue.
December was an extremely busy month from a sporting perspective and it hasn’t yet concluded. History is still being written…
Jogo is called up to the USMNT.
Jogo received his first USMNT callup. One that would have never taken place if the Spanish working visa were not taking an eternity to process. He made his USMNT debut and played a small role in the only goal.
Jogo finally completes his move to Real Sociedad. This is what Xabi Alonso had to say about him back in October hoping that he would be with the team in November…
Honoring the slogan of the year of the comebacks, Atlas FC, after 70 years of their last championship title, defeated Leon in penalty kicks to win the Grita México Apertura title on December 12th. This game was even more memorable than my Cruz Azul’s May title due to their longer dry spell. En horabuenta a todos mis amigos rojinegros. I know the feeling of relief. There are many Atlas fans scattered throughout México and the US.
On December 28th, the ex-NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden passed away at the age 85. Some will remember him from his coaching days with the Oakland Raiders. He won a super bowl there. Yet others will remember him from his NFL broadcasting days (commentating my cowboys games) with his simple analysis. The younger generation will always associate him to the Madden NFL Football video games. In any of those facets, Madden will be remembered as a legend on and off the field and perhaps the person who has impacted the NFL the most with his relentless love of the game. RIP John Madden.
For the first time in nearly 50 years (another resurgence), the title frontrunners: Britan’s Lewis Hamilton and the Dutch Max Verstappen entered the final race level on points. Red Bull team’s Max Verstappen took Abu Dhabi’s pole position with a brilliant display but Mercedes team’s Hamilton shared the front row seeking his eight title.
In an ending fit for this most chaotic and captivating of seasons, that all changed when the Safety Car emerged late on, allowing Verstappen to pit again and attack Hamilton on the final lap of the season, the Dutchman passing at Turn 5 to close out victory and, with it, the 2021 drivers’ title for the first time. México’s Checo Pérez ultimate Red Bull’s team effort positioned Verstappen to win the race. What a race!!!
2021 was definitely the second consecutive COVID impacted year and as the famous Yogi Berra once said: “It’s not over until it’s over”. There are still a few days left this year and we must finish strong even as the daily COVID cases continue to set record highs. All in all, there are still several silver lining items to reflect upon. One being that we are definitely closer to reaching a new normalcy and that can only be encouraging news. People have started realizing what’s truly important in their lives these past couple of years. On the sporting side of things, many sports records/curses were finally broken. Thus, we approach 2022 with a lot of hope and expect that the new year brings us more pleasant surprises and more sporting history will surely be written. Here are some things our family will be looking forward to.
Togetherness is the fuel that keeps our family functioning. We hope 2022 allows us the ability to gather, reunite, and openly interact with one another. Recently, 19+ months passed since the last time our family was all in the same room. Well, that meeting finally occurred, of all places, at the DFW airport. Below are some pictures of us picking up Johan from his return from Germany trip and us returning from Jogo’s USMNT debut. It’s been very challenging and will continue to be so; however, if we were able to withstand 19+ months apart, 2022 has nothing on us with our recharged batteries and positive energy.
2022 will definitely start off a bit challenging for the family with Jogo’s unplanned delayed arrival to Spain due to his ongoing work visa dilemma. We are hoping he gets to register on time to be able to play in the spring. Either way, we will have to go drop him off in San Sebastian, Spain in a few days. Some tears will be shed but we know he will be in a good place and closer to Johan.
On Johan’s side, he is in a good, stable environment and we hope he stays healthy above all. If he can do that consistently, he will inevitably continue to play an instrumental piece in FSV Zwickau’s attack and impact game outcomes like he has been. He has settled in well in Germany and could be in auto-pilot mode the second half of the season. The family will go visit both of them in the next few months COVID-permitting.
The pandemic uncertainty has not gone away. At the beginning of 2021, we thought we had a vaccine solution for the Delta variant. Now, Omicron is here. Hope is the last thing to lose and we certainly hope 2022 turns out to be a better year for all of us. For now, we can only plan our pathways with the information available; in the process, there will be definitely be twists and turns that will require adjustments. Seize the day #carpediem
On a very football selfish personal note, 2022 will be a World Cup year and that’s always an event that draws global attention.
Qatar World Cup (WC)
Towards the end of the calendar year, the world will have a chance to witness the next WC. It will be the fist WC in the modern era to be played in the month of December. We are all so looking forward to it but until then, let’s keep in touch.
We are always grateful for the support towards our family. If you like to stay up on the latest and don’t follow us yet in other social media platforms, please do so. We have a variety of content. You can find us at the links below. Happy 2022 New Year everyone!!!