Category Archives: FC Porto

Importance of a continuous education for a young footballer

Most professionals normally start their careers after the pursuit of a college degree; aspiring professional athletes however, must adhere to a different timeline due to their heavy reliance on their physical attributes. Thus, age (and time) is of the essence for them. Ideally, if the situation is adequate and athletes have an option to turn pro as early as mid-teenagers, many choose to do so. Unfortunately, in some of those cases, their academic development assumes a secondary role. Some athletes only get to finish high school, others only get to start college, but most professional footballers don’t even get to set foot on a college campus to play “college soccer” or pursue an academic degree.

One of our founding fathers Ben Franklin once said, there are two things in life that are certain: death and taxes. Although he continues to be mostly correct, there are other absolute truths in life that are equally certain for professionals. For example, any professional will eventually cease practicing their trade and the corresponding remuneration. More specifically, all professional athletes will be forced into retirement much sooner than other college degreed professions and then, what comes next?

Domestically, one of the most financially life-impacting sacrifices a young footballer (and their family) makes could be forfeiting their NCAA eligibility in order to pursue a professional football career. However, contrary to popular belief, that sacrifice doesn’t necessarily mean the footballer needs to give up the pursuit of a college degree altogether. In fact, as footballers, they probably have the most free time to continue their education (be it high school or college) during their playing careers.

High School:

High school (HS) is the most basic level of education an athlete should strive to complete. This education level should be non-negotiable especially with the various flexible online options available. It should not only be completed for the opportunity to one day pursue a college education but ultimately, for personal satisfaction -pride if you will-. If an aspiring professional footballer does not possess the discipline to finish a HS curriculum, what should we expect for the rest of their professional footballer career in terms of objectives and discipline to achieve them? Talent alone won’t be enough.

Most professional clubs’ main focus is to develop professional footballers and (knowingly or not) end up neglecting the players’ academic development. It’s a numbers game; most clubs are not staffed to dedicate time or resources to monitor (and much less assist with) players’ HS academics. Their efforts are almost exclusively focused around finding the next academy player who could either be sold for a hefty fee to finance the academy costs for the next couple of years or who could contribute to the first team. Makes sense. Football is a business and it’s all about winning and money (not in that order for some).

Not only are professional clubs mostly interested in the football development aspect of the player; most players agents are too. Rarely would either talk academics (especially agents) beyond the forced “how’s school going?”. Thus, the academic responsibility falls on the young footballer and their family. As parents, we must not let our footballer neglect their HS education on account of the pursuit of a professional playing career. They are never mutually exclusive and allowing diverging paths, can have long-lasting financial effects for the footballer. Here are some cold facts that could be used to further incentivize young footballers to continue their HS education:

  1. As a profession, a football career span is extremely short. Among all American mainstream sports, it’s the shortest.
  2. Footballers try to prolong their professional playing careers by starting as mid-teenagers but that normally comes at the expense of a free (or cost-reduced) college education.
  3. Footballers, like any other athletes, are only an injury away from football retirement. Having an academic-based contingency plan is good planning.
  4. Very few footballers will ever earn enough money to last post-full-age retirement (from 35-retirement age). The average salary of football players in MLS is the lowest of all American mainstream sports.
  5. Footballers are on short-term contracts. No money is ever guaranteed beyond a few years. As brutally lengthy as some find MLS contracts to be (3+2), 3 years of guaranteed money is good (especially for a teenager); however, that amount of time doesn’t get footballers to full-age retirement even after playing for an average of 7-10 years.
  6. Very few footballers can make a living in the same industry (coaching, commentating, etc.) after their playing careers are over.

It’s of utmost importance to finish a HS education in order to aspire to higher academic choices and be better prepared for the future. Generally speaking, more education translates into good and more stable employment in a given field later in life.

Community College:

Some families believe that turning into a professional footballer means giving up a college degree. That is not necessarily true. While professional footballers cannot return to play “collegiate soccer” at an amateur level by earning an athletic scholarship playing, they are welcome at any college/university provided they foot their own bill or rely on non-football financial aid (academics or financial need). So it’s a money situation. A college education is expensive and a community college may be the most financially viable way to start that pursuit.

Certainly, as a late teenager, a college education can be delayed a few years and yet a football career can’t. Postponing a college education a few years until a footballer has gone through the rigors of the profession may result in better preparation to meet life’s demands. The development of skills such as discipline, time management, analytical skills, team work, accountability, networking, and additional knowledge only gained through the sum of playing years (maturity) can be very valuable. But why wait until the football career is over? In fact, very few footballers finish their playing careers and then pursue a degree from scratch.

Take some college courses while playing and get the core courses out of the way. While that HS knowledge is fresh, leverage it. An additional benefit is that when the footballer finally concludes their playing career, they will have fewer credits to complete a degree and will be that much closer to having post-playing academic-based professional career choices. Alternatively, they will have completed enough credits for either an Associates or technical degree, or to transfer to a full four-year university.

University

Sometimes, a four-year college degree can be pursued during the footballer’s playing days. In the past, players such as Orlando’s Tesho Akindele, Chicago’s Fabian Herbers, and others have either completed what they had started at a brick and mortar university or concluded one from scratch. Currently, players like Mark Mckenzie, Paxton, Johan, etc. are pursuing their college degree during their playing days. It’s very possible but it requires some desire, a lot of motivation and further sacrifices (yes, some PlayStation time).

MLS/USL Players

In the past MLS/USL teams have made it easier for players and staff to pursue a college education by partnering with some higher level institutions. This is a great first step; however, the initiative has to be taken by the player (with a little nudge by the family).

MLS offers (or used to) a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) through which they could pursue a college degree. It was a convenient, and cheaper alternative but ultimately players in MLS should be responsible for seeking their academic alternatives that best suit their needs.

European players

European based players do not have the benefit of an NHSU partnership at a reduced cost; in fact, they usually have a higher wall to climb as they are required to learn a new language: Chris Richards (German), Reggie (Portuguese), Bryan Reynolds (Italian), etc. In Johan’s specific case, the obligatory Portuguese classes have served him as a continuity learning bridge between the end of his HS curriculum and the beginning of his college degree. No learning gap in between.

The longer a footballer (or anybody) goes without the academic rigors of a classroom (virtual or not), the more difficult it will be to return to a learning environment in life ultimately reducing the opportunities post a playing-career. Nurturing a growth mindset from early on on children, can be the difference. Parents…lead by example. It’s never too late.

Growth mindset

Some may argue that a piece of paper is just as good as the connections in life. While we tend to agree with the general concept, it’s important to keep a growth mindset at all times. Networking indeed opens doors; however, talent, and a growth mindset will keep those doors open and in turn open even more. Always be curious, hungry for more and never stop learning. Whether that’s via a formal education or not. Don’t become stale, learn a new skill, a different language (points at self), a new hobby, etc. It may not necessarily be for a lucrative reason but challenge yourself often.

All young footballers dream of becoming professional players at some point in their lives. After all, who wouldn’t want to reap the benefits of years of intense training, full of sacrifices. Realistically, very few will be financially set for life just from their playing career earnings.

Not everyone will be able to meet Karim Benzema’s lifestyle at such a young age

As parents, we must help them transition into that phase of their lives by being educated in certain aspects of the profession. Football professionalism is achievable but nevertheless short. Will the young players be prepared for the career after their playing days are over? Teach them to have a growth mindset and adapt. They will forever be grateful once their playing careers are over. Please continue interacting with us. We love it. #theGomezway

Letter to my teenage footballer

Many years ago, during those “in-depth” conversations with my dad, he told me this: “have a child and you will never sleep soundly again”. At the time, I thought of it as a joke because my baby sister had just been born, but then he explained it to me. As a parent, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are, you worry when they live at home and even more so when they move away. Later, you worry about their families and it’s a never-ending cycle. Now, I fully understand exactly what he meant.

Spending time with family May 2020. Three generations

I last saw you seven months ago, for some, it may not be a long time, but for me it is, especially when we were planning to see you for the holidays. As soon as we found out you were not going to be able to come home due to the team’s schedule, we started planning our visit. We made our checklist, packed our bags with your winter clothes and other special items to remind you of home. We gathered all necessary documentation having learned from our experience back in July trying to get you out of the US into Portugal, but things have changed, and your bags are still packed in your room.  As the pandemic has extended, travel restrictions have become stricter and more countries are on lockdown hoping to finally drive COVID cases down while spreading the vaccine world-wide.

Our original plan was to visit you the first week of December, we spent a few hours over several weeks researching routes and each country’s COVID requirements. The plan was to avoid Christmas travel and minimize layovers, but as the travel restrictions continued, our date kept moving back. Here we are at the end of February and still not able to travel abroad. And not a lot of hope that we’ll be able to go anytime soon as the lockdown has been extended through early April.

Enjoying homemade tacos for dinner at Porto, Feb. 2020

What has made this even more difficult to “swallow” is that we just brought Jonathan to Louisville, helped him get set up in his apartment, made sure he has what he needs and it just made me realize we never had the chance to do that with you.  Yes, you are a bit older, but you still had to go through this experience last year. You went on your own to see apartments, had to decide on cost, utilities paid, furniture, location, transportation to and from practice. Not only did you never complain about having to do it alone, but you made us a part of this process as much as you could. Our contribution was watching videos of the apartments and listing advantages and disadvantages, looking at maps for metro routes and easy access to grocery stores and pharmacies. I understand this is a process that everyone goes through in life, buy your first house, rent your first apartment, you just had to do it at a younger age, in a different country and with zero support from English-speaking folks and I am glad.  Even though it may have been a bit painful, it’s just helping you grow and mature as a person.

You can tell it has been a couple of emotional weeks and to top it all off….I keep hearing your voice! In summary, I am losing my mind 😊. The first time it happened, I had just woken up and could clearly hear you calling for me “mom”; it was all I heard. I called Jonathan asking if he needed anything but he was still asleep. Then it happened again 2 days later. It is a bit of an agonizing feeling because you wonder if something is wrong.  Came to find out you were having a rough week, getting over a cold and not feeling great. The weather in Porto has been cold and rainy and your apartment does not have heating so had to learn to adapt and get an electric heater going. You didn’t want us to worry so you never brought it up, but I have news for you….we are your parents and it is our job to worry even when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason. And even when you think we don’t know what is going on, your voice gives it away. If anything, we have learned that we are stronger together and even from a distance we will try to find a way to help you….ALWAYS. Family comes first.

Enjoying the sunset at Rio Douro

As I have spent the last couple of weeks with Jonathan, I have learned to appreciate even more any time I get to spend with family, especially my children. Working out, preparing meals and having those long conversations with Jonathan before going to bed are priceless memories I will treasure forever. It has been a year since I went to see you in Porto, but I know our time together again will come soon. Meanwhile, stay strong and continue as focused and organized as you have been, all the pieces will fall into place. Through this post I send you a “bear hug” one of those that when you close your eyes and enjoy the embrace makes you smile because you know you are loved and everything will be okay.

As for my family and friends, one takeaway from these last few months…..take any opportunity you have to spend with your loved ones, you never know what tomorrow will bring or how far away from home they may be. #theGomezway

Together again thanks to COVID , Mother’s Day 2020

What are the Jogos up to? and scuffed podcast #149 with Caden Clark

I will preface our family status by addressing the elephant in the room. It’s been a shocking past couple of days for the football world since Maradona’s passing. There’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said already. He was a polarizing figure off the field but he earned the respect of most of us on the pitch.

From a football perspective, his legacy will live with us forever and we are grateful our eyes witnessed his God-given talent. Living in Mexico City in 1986, his impact on me was exponentially magnified; however, I first laid eyes on him in 1982 with Brazil robbing my attention most of that WC.

His life becomes more remarkable when you read his autobiography. I first read it 20 years ago when it came out. I’m giving it a second read now and truly recommend it if you have some spare time over the holidays. You will understand a lot of his decisions and learn some about his preferences:

  1. Maradona started off as a defender. He appreciated the ability to see the whole field and the additional time to make decisions. (soccer IQ)
  2. He had 7 siblings living in Fiorito. He had a very humble upbringing but always surrounded by a close-knit circle of friends and family (failure was not an option)
  3. He acknowledges his comfort with the ball stems from spending 4-5 hours daily from a very, very young age (unstructured repetitions and muscle memory)
  4. The worst day of his life…the day he learned he was not part of Argentina’s 1978 WC squad to be played at home. This was the reason he “only” played 4 WCs (setbacks fueled him)
  5. The “Hand of God” goal was not the first one of its kind he ever scored (gamesmanship)
  6. Why did he often wear two watches when he traveled? (loyalty)
Great book. Get it if you can.

I could go on and on about him but onto family matters…as the show must go on…

Joana:

Solid crescendo performance helping your team win another tournament. You improved on technical and tactical aspects of the game that you had been honing.

Joana honing skills during the break (11.25.20). Look up!!!

To us, the progress was the real win as we know game results are circumstantial. We loved the total control you displayed of effort and attitude. So proud of you mamita!!!

Johan:

Due to the international break, Johan had the past two weekends off but participated in training with the first team. Good stuff on both of the scrimmages. Continue seizing the opportunities and getting all the available playing time. Baby steps. We now move on to actual games.

Jogo:

Successfully and safely left Denmark and has finished a new quarantine. He continues to train with/against top competition and most importantly, staying healthy, and in shape during the long off-season. The objectives of the trip are being met.

Thanksgiving:

Yesterday was the first of its kind where we didn’t have the boys with us. Considering we spent the last one in Portugal, it was somewhat expected. We are grateful for what God has given us. Can it be better? Sure. It can also be worse so we are extremely lucky to have health especially in uncertain times.

2019 Thanksgiving 10.24.19 (Oporto, Portugal). Jogo with a football at his feet even during dinner…

Scuffed podcast:

We don’t listen to Adam (and Greg) weekly but we listen regularly. They have excellent football material for US football fans; however, it’s not always geared towards player parents. This episode has a good bit of educational material as it relates specifically to Caden Clark’s journey. Jogo is great friends with Caden and it’s good to go full-circle on a lot of stuff. Furthermore, it’s validation that we are doing some things well, and perhaps others, not so much. Give it a listen if you want to learn more about:

  1. Additional training: mental speed, hip mobility, ball control, center of gravity
  2. Playing for a non-MLS club
  3. Developing the love for the game
  4. Encouraging decision making, mistakes, and losing the ball
  5. Opinion on strength coaches
  6. etc.

Note that all journeys are different but it’s always good to know what other families are doing in the pursuit of the dream and HOW they are doing it. After all, this is what this blog is about.

Another emotional weekend

People frequently ask how we make time to maintain this blog. Well, it’s definitely time-consuming but it’s equally rewarding being able to help other families, and players going through similar phases in life as we currently are (or once did). It almost feels like the sense of satisfaction when volunteering our time. However, it’s also very therapeutic. Let me explain…

Most families could relate to the fact that watching our own children go through the peaks and valleys of youth competitive activities could be stressful. The beginning of professional football is no different (more so when it’s double-duty like in our case) and it’s a shorter duration endeavor which amplifies the importance of those ups and downs. Sometimes, we -Okay, just me- treat this blog as a shrink, once I start typing, I cannot stop until I “rationalize” football events. Today is one of those days and off we go with another set of anecdotes from the weekend hoping you find them useful.

The pre-weekend started really well for the Gomez’s with Joana placing second in her cross country district meet. Sure the near win and her PR time were important self-confidence boosters and even bragging rights but to Claudia and I, developing a love for a beautiful “life-adding” activity like running is more valuable…more so, in uncertain times like the ones we are living in.

2nd place TAPPS middle school district 10.22.20 (Fort Worth, TX)

The weekend continued its inexorable course but it brought its share of bad news/adversity to our family; it did so not only in the win-loss category, which in a team sport should have a confined impact, but also in the health regard.

Jogo

LouCity ended its season last Saturday at home against a combative Tampa Bay Rowdies team. The 13 game undefeated streak (8 straight wins) had to come to an end and unfortunately, it ended during the Eastern Conference Championship game. Great job by the team, staff, fans and the entire organization. In the end, there can only be one winner but it’s reassuring to know that good organizations develop a winning tradition and there’s no doubt the successes at LouCity will continue for years to come. Unfortunately, those successes will not be with the same roster, staff, etc. but the winning ways, if learned well, can be permeated to the next endeavors of each individual’s lives. So we must move on and maintain a very short memory in this football business.

Jogo apparently having a blast at practice 10.21.20 (Louisville, KY)

Johan

Porto B had a difficult task at hand against the best team they have faced this season: Chaves. We must admit, Chaves looked like a team with real aspirations to the first division. The visiting team took the initiative and possessed the ball in the first 15 minutes. After that, the game was very even with Porto B scoring the first goal but playing a man down since early in the first half which ultimately proved too difficult of a task to overcome. The 1-2 loss was unfortunate but more so was the fact that Johan picked up a knock whose impact will be known later this week. His 6-game starting streak could be affected. On the bigger scheme of things, he’s one of the strikers of the U20 MNT pool getting consistent minutes so the impact could be worse assuming that U20 WC qualifying remains “a thing”. Let’s hope for the best.

Johan putting the time after practice 10.14.20 (Oporto, Portugal)

Joana

She had the weekend off due to inclement weather in the area but the highlight of the weekend was her birthday. Despite some football adversity, it was great to have Sunday all to ourselves just to celebrate it with her and put football aside. She loved the lettering on her new airpods.

Joana enjoyed this gift dearly 10.25.20 (Keller, TX)

I will end this post on a pair of positive points. Below is a video of Joana the day she turned 4 years old. God knows there have been many good and not so good times since the day we filmed it. It’s always good to reminisce…especially the good times. Pictures and videos help us do that especially now that the boys are living away….time flies…enjoy your kids as they will inevitably be away from you before you know it. Don’t wait any longer, take and record silly pictures of your kids…or better yet start a blog, it’s self-therapeutic.

Joana putting a show for the parents 10.25.11 (Southlake, TX)

On a less nostalgic side, there are different positive activities coming up for the family. Stay tuned and more importantly stay safe as the weather turns colder. #theGomezway

Chumchat

To finish the post on an even more positive note, Johan and the chums continue to produce quality content and their views and subscribers seem to agree. This week’s guest is Jessica McDonald, FIFA World Cup winner, NCAA Women’s Champion at UNC. She’s trying to make the Tokyo Olympic squad for next year. Her journey through adversity is unique and worth listening to her definition of success. She is the first female guest on the podcast and one that you just can’t miss.

Chumchat: Jessica McDonald Season 2 Volume 10 10.23.20

Contrast of signing your first pro contract with a big vs small european club

The summer international window closed this past Monday and we continued witnessing an increased exodus of American-developed youth footballers signing with European clubs around their 18th birthday. American-developed footballers are gradually opening doors to the next generation and thus have become very attractive to European clubs as their ROI could be huge and the risk is extremely low. That said, in this post we are not analyzing the various reasons for this trend. Instead, we are going to try to contrast some of the advantages and disadvantages if player/family is ever faced with the choice of signing with a small vs big club (in Europe). Ultimately, it’s very situational but below are some aspects to consider:

Advantages of a bigger club

The name of a big football club can be very attractive to start a European career (especially for youngsters); after all, who wouldn’t like to be part of a regular Champions League participant club? It’s important to note that the club name and its reputation were not built overnight. These are clubs who have been in existence for over a century. For comparison, MLS clubs have been around for 25 years and thus are in their infancy when it comes to name and reputation. Even those MLS clubs which have established partnerships with big European clubs have been very intermittently successful placing players abroad.

Money/budget

Bigger clubs frequently have a larger spending budget and thus pay very generously even for a U19 player. However, it is often said that it’s the second professional contract the one that really matter$ but we also know that young players/families oftentimes seek immediate remuneration due to the immense sacrifices getting a player to Europe. It’s also important to note that some of these American footballers/families are giving up upward of 150k in college scholarship money to play in Europe so they want to maximize earnings ASAP. A higher salary is of course only one perk and there are a ton of other benefits that come with signing with a bigger club.

Individual competition:

Thicker wallets allow bigger clubs to sign more international players at every position. A higher density of international players usually translates into more competition. To be clear: The club is ONLY going to sign an international player who surpasses the talent they can find domestically. If your player thrives with top-notch competition, they will not only love positional competition at the big club but also love the team competition faced by playing in higher profile tournaments as a team.

Team competition:

A lot of the bigger clubs have U19 teams who regularly participate in the UEFA Youth League. It’s a version of the Champions League but for U19 players. Johan participated with 2019 UEFA Youth League Champion FC Porto. He had the time of his life. The 2019 UEFA Youth League tournament is where Gio Reyna gained the most exposure playing with Dortmund U19’s and all of us can see where he is at now.

Exposure:

Playing for a big club is not for everyone; a lot of eyes are normally on the player not just during important tournaments but even during practices. Not all players can sustain this type of pressure in a foreign cut-throat environment.

Coaching:

Bigger clubs tend to have larger available staff: Coach, Assistant Coaches, Dietician, Doctor, Psychologist, Trainer, Translator, Team Manager, Equipment Manager, Media Team, etc. If this is important to your player, it should not be taken lightly. Having a supporting staff dedicated to the player’s needs could be a deal breaker for players who are living by themselves, thousands of miles away, in a different culture and for the first time.

Language classes:

Integration/assimilation of the new club/culture is extremely important. Bigger clubs tend to have resources to dedicate to foreign players. Johan was taking Portuguese classes at least once a week his first year. Although he’s not yet fluent in Portuguese, he can read, and speak Portuguese pretty well. His team and cultural integration has been a success due to this perk and obviously because Portuguese is very similar to Spanish.

Watching games remotely:

For the families back in the states, it’s of utmost importance feeling closer to their player. Bigger clubs can achieve some level of closeness via their social media platforms. Some clubs actually have dedicated English-only social media platforms (Porto does not). Others have an application that allows family and friends to watch all games: U19, B, and senior team. At Porto, we are fortunate to watch most of Johan’s games and we are very grateful to the club for that perk.

Administrative:

Bigger clubs have dedicated staff to do very specific tasks. They have personnel to take care of player/family trips back home, legal matters, housing, etc. This type of assistance is invaluable when going to a new country for the first time. During the start of the pandemic, FC Porto’s travel staff seamlessly worked with us to bring Johan home safely among a lot of uncertainty. Also, most bigger clubs have law firms available to answer legal issues such as visa, payroll, taxes, etc. Visa problems for players are inexcusable from the club’s and/or agent’s perspective. No player should ever have to go through what Christian Cappis recently had to endure.

Advantages of a smaller club

The name and reputation of a football club has a lot of weight on players and parents when making their first pro-contract decisions. It’s difficult to turn away an initial opportunity with a big club but statistically, smaller clubs offer immediate playing time which is extremely important to the physical and mental development of young footballers. There’s no worst feeling for a player playing abroad (or domestically) than getting NO playing time. Similarly, some clubs exist to promote players to the first team and then sell them. That would be a good player player/family strategy to seek a bigger club for the second (or later) contract.

Money/Budget:

A smaller club has a more limited spending budget; their ability to pay a “competitive” salary is limited. Some small German clubs only pay what’s indispensable and necessary to live while playing for a U19 side. For some families, this could be a big factor as they try to justify bypassing a hefty college scholarship back home with an uncertain start of a European career. For other families a smaller initial salary could be a blessing in disguise.

Less individual competition

A smaller budget limits the club’s ability to bring an abundance of players which means less competition for your player. By sheer numbers, less competition translates into potentially more playing time AND learning to play multiple positions. Ultimately, this could signify a faster path to a first team debut.

Team competition:

In Germany, at the U19 level, there’s a competition called Pokal which is a competition among mostly teams from the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2. It’s a national “tournament” with less competition, pressure, and exposure than a UEFA Youth League tournament but competitive nonetheless. Some American-developed players may thrive more under this type of environment with less exposure and pressure.

Pressure:

Having played for Bayern, Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City/United, Benfica, Porto, etc. is a great resume builder for a youngster. However, those are very competitive environments not apt for every player’s development. It’s very cut-throat. Most players need the security of playing week in and week out and thus signing for a smaller club can be more beneficial.

Administrative:

Smaller clubs have fewer staff members that “do-it-all”. Sometimes, this expedites generic transactions wherein those tasks can face delays/red tape in bigger clubs. Knowing the right staff at a smaller club can expedite a mundane task such as shipping stuff from/to home. We have recently struggled with shipping “stuff” back and forth and to be fair, most of it is due to the pandemic.


In the end, whichever club your player ends up signing with, enjoy it. It’s a HUGE deal. The first one is very memorable but statistically, very few youngsters ever stay with the team they first signed with. There will be more signing opportunities. Everyone’s path is very unique. Seek, build, and enjoy your own journey. The aspects of life learned through this journey are bigger than football. That can never be understated.

By the way, if you have 20 minutes give Chum Chat a listen. This week’s guest is another US developed prospect heading to Europe sooner than later: Dante Sealy. Get to know him a little better. Until next time #theGomezway

Fútbol: Una actividad de altibajos

Es fundamental para familias y jugadores entender que el fútbol es una actividad emocionalmente volátil. Produce sentimientos opuestos en lapsos muy cortos. Un día te encuentras saboreando las mieles de la victoria y al día siguiente, viendo al rival celebrar. La paciencia y perseverancia son atributos importantes para lidiar con momentos tan cambiantes. En nuestro caso, uno podría asumir que Johan nos preparó muy bien a la adversidad ya que la temporada pasada tuvo una lesión grave que lo alejó de las canchas y nosotros a miles de kilómetros de poder brindarle cuidado. Y para ser honestos, la volatilidad vivida recientemente en la familia, no fué tan dramática como lo describo arriba, más sin embargo la semana pasada se alejó mucho de lo común.

La semana pasada FC Porto B jugó su primer partido de la temporada 2020-2021 y nos encontrabamos felices de que Johan fuera parte de la plantilla; sin embargo, por situaciones diversas, no tuvo la oportunidad de jugar (algo raro). De hecho, en el transcurso del juego, FC Porto B cedió un gol tempranero, y el jugar de visitante en una cancha brava tampoco contribuyó a que Johan pudiera ingresar al terreno de juego. Johan es muy inteligente, mentalmente fuerte y entendió a la perfección el planteamiento táctico del cuerpo técnico dadas las circunstancias del encuentro. Por otro lado, en Louisville, Jogo recibió los llamados minutos de “manejo de juego” en la victoria contra St. Louis. Nosotros lo vemos muy bien, fuerte, participativo, entrón, atrevido y probablemente debió de haber marcado gol. El equipo se encuentra en una excelente racha con su cuadro titular asi que ¿porqué cambiar lo que les está funcionando?

A la tercera Jogo le fué un poco mejor. Jugó uno de sus mejores partidos y tuvo una asistencia pero su equipo terminó perdiendo siendo ampliamente superado por el rival. Irónicamente, el equipo de Joana había dominado al mismo mismo rival tan sólo una semana antes…esas son las cosas que nos brinda el fútbol. Como familia, reflexionamos y aceptamos las lecciones aprendidas ese fin de semana y bueno, nos preparamos para las oportunidades venideras. “El fútbol siempre da revanchas” y eso fué lo que sucedió este fin de semana pasado.

“Los mejores éxitos suceden después de los mayores fracasos” – Henry Ward Beecher

Todo empezó el Viernes a mediodía con la primera competencia interescolar a campo traviesa de Joana. La temperatura era la ideonea y aunque no logró establecer un record personal, cubrió el trayecto de forma eficiente y terminó en primer lugar de su escuela y séptimo en la general. Fué un curso difícil (con pendientes pronunciadas y súper lodoso) pero al final nos representó muy bien.

7mo lugar en general en el meet de Cross Country. 09.20.20 (Argyle, TX)

Las buenas noticias continuaron el Sábado por la mañana (+6 horas in Porto). En una tarde típica lluviosa de Porto, Johan no nada más estaba en la plantilla una vez más pero en esta ocasión iba de titular ante el favorito FC Vizela en casa. De hecho, el Presidente del FC Porto estaba en las gradas presenciando el juego. Ese tipo de vitrina no se da todos los días.

Johan conduciendo mirada arriba 09.19.20 (Oporto, Portugal)

Johan tuvo 40 minutos muy buenos y estuvo involucrado en cada uno de los tres goles en la primera parte. Su segunda mitad fué más para manejar el partido. Esta es su asistencia que derivó en el penal para el segundo gol.

Lo que se robó el show para nosotros fue la jugada sublime que terminó en el tercer gol del FC Porto B. El primer toque dirigido y la definición fueron exquisitos. Felicidades hijo.

El Sábado continuó siendo benévolo para los Gómez ya que Jogo registró su cuarto juego como titular con LouCity. Sus duelos aereos han mejorado muchísimo, su presencia técnica y táctica también va madurando. En general, está aprovechando sus oportunidades y manteniendo un mentalidad de aprendizaje. Línea por línea el equipo es muy talentoso y el sigue peleando por minutos y contribuyendo cuando se le require. El equipo lleva una racha invicta de 9 partidos y ya casi aseguran un lugar en la liguilla. De hecho, el partido de mañana entre St. Louis e Indy es crucial para sus aspiraciones.

Ya el Domingo, el fin de semana terminó de forma excelente con Joana. A pesar de jugar una nueva posición con tendencias más defensivas, tuvo una asistencia en un juego importante en Houston. Las inclemencias del tiempo jugaron un papel importante pero aun así jugó muy bien. Estamos empezando a ver el principio de algo especial con ella y nos alegra lo que le espera si se sigue aplicando. Hay mucho trabajo por delante con toda la tribu Gómez pero necesitamos ser pacientes y perseverar ante toda adversidad. Sin duda, habrá tiempos complicados en la vida de cualquier atleta pero con el apoyo de la familia y amigos, esos tiempos difíciles se convierten en lecciones de vida efímeras. Así es #theGomezway

Houston Dash (1) Solar (1) 09.20.20 (The Woodlands, TX)

Ya para despedirnos y en un tono más ameno, disfruten del último episodio de Chum Chat. Judson, Tanner, y Johan invaden las cuentas de Instagram de dos jugadores del ciclo de la selección sub-20 de Estados Unidos: Cole Bassett y Kevin Bonilla. Es uno de los episodios más cómicos y uno que no se van a querer perder. Estos chavos tienen una química impresionante y le damos gracias al fútbol por haberles otorgado esa amistad tan especial que tienen.

the grass is not always greener in the Gomez’s football pitch

It’s important for families and young players to understand that football is an emotional (sometimes draining), volatile endeavor. One day, you are enjoying victory at the top of the pinnacle and the next you are tasting the sourness of defeat. Patience and persistence are key resilience characteristics to prevail. In our case, one could argue that we were well-prepared for adversity since Johan spent most of last season (thousand of miles away from us) injured. Honestly, the recent volatility we experienced wasn’t as dramatic as described above but let’s be honest, last week was far from ideal for the Gómez’s…

FC Porto B had their first game of the 2020-2021 season last week and we were happy that Johan made the 18 (celebrate small victories, right?); unfortunately, he didn’t get to play. FC Porto B giving up an early goal, and playing an important away game didn’t help his cause either. He’s strong mentally and understood it to be a tactical move given the flow of the game. Meanwhile, at LouCity Jogo received some “game management” minutes in their “do or die” victory against St. Louis. He looked really energetic and daring in his short cameo and should have had a goal. LouCity is in a hot streak and honestly, why change something that is currently working.

Making the best out of the minutes 09.12.20 (Louisville, KY)

The third Jogo fared a little better and played one of her best games having an assist but her team lost in a lopsided defeat by a sister club team. Ironically, Joana’s team had previously dominated that same team a week earlier (volatility). That’s the way the game goes sometimes. As a family, we moved on and prepared for the next opportunities to rebound and that’s exactly what happened this past weekend.

“One’s best successes come after their greatest disappointments” – Henry Ward Beecher

It all started Friday at noon with Joana’s first Cross Country (CC) meet. The temperature was great and although she did not set a personal record (PR), she ran a new course elegantly and finished first in her school team (7th overall). It was a difficult (hilly and super muddy) course but she managed to represent us all really well.

7th place overall XC meet. 09.20.20 (Argyle, TX)

The good news continued Saturday morning (+6 hours in Porto). Johan was not only on the 18 but starting against favorite FC Vizela at home in a typical rainy Porto September evening in front of FC Porto’s President. That type of exposure doesn’t happen every day.

Johan looking strong 09.19.20 (Oporto, Portugal)

Johan had 40 solid minutes; he was involved in each of the three first half goals. His second half was mostly about game management. Here is his assist that led to a PK for the second goal.

Johan’s first assist of the season: FC Porto B (4) vs FC Vizela (1) 09.19.20 (Oporto, Portugal)

What stole the show for us was this sublime play that led to FC Porto B’s third goal. The first touch is exquisite and the finish followed suit. Congrats son.

Johan’s first goal of the season: FC Porto B (4) vs FC Vizela (1) 09.19.20 (Oporto, Portugal)

Saturday continued with a good showing for the Gómez’s as Jogo registered his 4th start of the season with LouCity. His aerial duels have improved, his technical and tactical awareness are very solid. In general, he’s making the most out of his opportunities and keeping a growth mindset. LouCity overall is very talented all-around and he’s fighting for minutes and contributing when called upon. The team is undefeated in its last 9 games and have almost secured a place in the playoffs. Looking forward to St. Louis game tomorrow against Indy.

On Sunday, the weekend ended extremely well with Joana. Despite playing a new position which is more defensive, she had an assist in an important away game in Houston. Inclement weather was a factor but she played well. We are beginning to see the start of something special with her and are excited to see what will soon come her way if she applies herself. There’s a lot of work to be done with all of the Gómez’s clan but we need to be patient and persevere in all the adversity that may come our way. There will be rough times in the lives of athletes time and again but with the strong support of family and friends, those rough times can be ephemeral life lessons. It’s #theGomezway

Houston Dash (1) Solar (1) 09.20.20 (The Woodlands, TX)

On a lighter note, please have a laugh. Enjoy the latest episode of Chum Chat. Judson, Tanner, and Johan raid two U20 MNT pool player Instagram accounts: Cole Bassett’s and Kevin Bonilla’s. It’s one of the funniest episodes yet and one that you don’t want to miss. These young adults have such chemistry and we have football to thank for that friendship.

Johan signs with FC Porto a year later

In a few days, you will officially start your second season with Porto. As you have witnessed from preseason, the intensity, the craftiness, and in general, the competition is much higher in Porto B than last year’s age-restricted league but you prepared very well during the break. In preseason, you have helped the team by playing different offensive positions, scoring goals and assisting. You tend to minimize your goal and assist contributions because it’s preseason but congratulations on your production nonetheless (as much as I disagree with you on not celebrating preseason accolades). However, one thing we do agree on is that the most important aspect of your upcoming season is that you stay physically and mentally healthy.

Honestly, one of the aspects we love most about the Portuguese league is that it’s not followed by many back home. (Un)fortunately, very few fans really know how to watch and comment on your games. Well, we think it’s a good thing as long as your family is able to. Inevitably, there will be more American fans paying attention to the Portuguese league now that Reggie plays there but for now, enjoy the calmness knowing that the “right” people are always watching your games. As for this new season, we hope it’s nothing like last year in terms of injuries and the start of the 20-21 season is looking more promising. Below are the events that led up to your signing at Porto…

It was June of 2019, the FCD U18/U19 DA team kept advancing deep in the DA playoffs and you continued being an instrumental part of the team. On the other hand, it had been obvious that any path to the FC Dallas first team needed to go through the brand new North Texas SC (NTSC) team and the club started giving you meaningful minutes with the USL-1 team and you started producing there as well. You were concurrently playing for both DA and USL team.

Picture after advancing to the DA quarterfinals

While pulling double duty, it started to be very worrisome that your load was increasing significantly. Sure, the club’s technical and medical staff had never dealt with managing players alternating between the DA and NTSC on same week games but adversity was looming. We were not comfortable how the medical aspect of your health was being managed.

While the desire to stay in the FCD organization was extremely high, there wasn’t really a viable way. A change was inevitable but we didn’t want to just abandon the excellent run that the U18/U19 team was having in the DA playoffs. Now in July and a depleted U18/U19 roster, a new coach, the natural end-of-season injury period and most importantly, players pulling double duty became all factors in delaying our decision to seek out alternative opportunities. Your college coach was always supportive. Thanks Nick.

Injury

In an effort to complete a NTSC roster for the game against Tucson, FCD requested three U18/U19 DA players to fly back to Dallas immediately following their DA playoff game in California and play a 2nd game within a 24 hour window. Needless to say, you sustained a mild injury (hamstring) that took months for full recovery. Witnessing first hand the type of medical oversight convinced us that we needed to move quicker than originally anticipated. A phone call to a family acquaintance in Germany and the first training opportunity was setup for you in the next few weeks.

DA Final

The U18/U19 DA team played the final game with Judson out with a hamstring injury and you considerably handicapped with hamstring discomfort (another interesting decision). The roster was so short and an FCD missed PK in the first minutes worsened FCD’s mood. The game ended as a 2-1 loss.

You flew back to Dallas immediately after the championship game and were on a plane three days later to Germany for some additional last minute agency-found trials. Honestly, when you left, we never thought you would not return home until the Christmas break…and off you went with just a small bag, great attitude, your huge smile and our blessings…

Johan and tear-eyed mom at the DFW airport 07.13.19

German Training Stints

Freiburg:

The first and longest stop was Freiburg. It’s beyond our comprehension how you managed to undergo almost five weeks of demanding German trials with the hamstring pain but you left it all on the pitch. Based on feedback (yours and the club’s), this was by far the best, friendliest, club you visited in Germany. You did preseason in Switzerland with the team and scored in almost every scrimmage you played.

Unknowingly, you opened a door for Jogo #theGomezway. However, although feedback was great, we couldn’t wait to make it work and the international window was soon closing. Thank you Ralph and Vincent for your hospitality. We quickly moved on to the next trial.

Augsburg:

This was another good trial. In fact, what we remembered most was that you really liked seeing Aidan there. Extra motivation having an American “partner in crime“. This is the club where you practiced with the U23s and did very well too. The decision point came when they asked you to play a friendly with them the last day of the trial and unfortunately you couldn’t. The dang paperwork or so were we told. Unfortunately, you didn’t have the documentation they needed from FC Dallas. Bummer. I should have read my own checklist post.

Johan Gomez and Aiden Morris after practice

Nuremburg:

We felt the first two trials had gone well and during this trial, we learned about Porto’s interest. However, we didn’t know whether it’d be the right fit for you or not. The news gave you a much needed emotional and physical boost knowing that they wanted to see you immediately. It had been a long summer of intense competition and five weeks of trials and traveling was taking its toll. This wasn’t a bad trial by any means but somehow the most memorable highlight I have of it was the video below. You attended a professional game in Nuremburg and a great farewell from a beautiful city.

Porto:

You came and you conquered. They offered you a spot within a week of trialing. Your game was more apt to their needs and your development. You were supposed to return home after you signed but the U20 camp kept you in Europe. In hindsight, you made the right choice by attending the first U20 MNT camp in Slovania as you scored your first international goal.

You ended up joining Porto after the third game of the season, without much of a pre-season and with a soared hamstring. Since you never came home after you left in July. I had to take your additional personal stuff to Portugal in late September. Few will ever know the behind the scenes sacrifices, even fewer will ever care, some may just care that you score goals. C’est la vie mon ami.

Training facilities at Olival, Oporto, Portugal (08.31.20)

Mallorca:

Mallorca opened its doors for you from just looking at your impressive stats and some DA clips right after the Porto trial. They made an offer hard to turn down but the Akil Watts situation was fresh. Honestly, Spain would have been excellent for your football profile and maybe still a future option; however, the project at Porto was more appealing at the time.

The other factor that may have influenced Porto’s selection over Mallorca was this statement by Porto’s technical staff:

Going to Mallorca is like driving a Honda, FC Porto is like a Ferrari. Which would you rather drive?”

Porto’s technical staff

Signing:

I remember being at work when you called. It was the sic “bestest” news. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. Only we knew the struggles (financial, emotional, physical, etc.) to get you to Germany. We knew how important this was to you and we also know that you couldn’t have landed at a better developmental place. Unfortunately (for your family), they signed you right away and we couldn’t make it out there. In hindsight, I should have tried harder. I promise you I’ll be there for the next one…which is the one that counts.

Your Porto B preseason went well. You have been directly impacting each scrimmage. You have become an instrumental part of Coach Rui’s lineup. As you said, scrimmages are just that. As your family, we are proud of your accomplishments no matter how small (or big) so it’s hard to not celebrate your honors. We know you have big dreams but playing for Porto is no joke. Celebrate the small victories son. That said, we care more that you are staying physically and mentally healthy and of course that your are optimizing your opportunities. #Carpediem

Estadio Joao Cardoso: Porto B vs. Tondela. Johan: Goal and assist. 08.29.20

Good luck on the next game and see you soon son. Your family loves you. Nunca olvides de donde vienes ni a donde vas pero siempre paso a paso. #buscalaforma #theGomezway

Happy 19th Johan; Another one away from us…

The following post is the type that we’d rather avoid writing for sentimental reasons; however, we think it’s important for families to read about the nuances “young” footballers and their respective families encounter from an early age in the pursuit of a football career. The endless need to travel and be “away from the family” takes a toll. It’s the price to pay. Our advice: maximize your time with your footballer because he/she will be gone at a very early age…without further ado…

HAPPY 19th BIRTHDAY JOHAN!!!!

It’s a special day..believe it or not…more so for us than for you. It’s the commemoration of one of the three happiest days of our lives. We are unable to express our gratitude to the Lord for placing you in our lives. We are proud beyond any realistic measure. We could attempt to begin to list the many reasons why you are loved but words won’t suffice. For now, know that we miss you and also that, believe it or not, you have spent 4 out of the last 6 birthdays away from home (doing what?, footballing). Yes, we remember each one of them. Probably our most memorable was the one that didn’t involve football; we actually spent it together back in 2018 in Cancun. It’s unfortunate to celebrate most of your birthdays away from you…people say, technology makes it easier these days…but it really doesn’t.

Family vacation: Cancun 2018

We understand you are doing what you love…and yet you did it again…as most already know, your recent return to Porto was a bit rocky AND sad as well. Not only is the current pandemic depressing, seeing you depart magnified that feeling. While the family had grown accustomed to having you around, the dreaded time for you to continue pursuing your dreams finally arrived…your family must not be selfish…but yet, we are. In the end, you are our son (the oldest too). Yes, after 19 years we are still in learning mode and figuring some things out with you. Above all, you are more than a footballer and we want the best for you. Inexorably, your football career will have an end at some point and your life will continue…our goal is to help you find joy in the journey of life (not just football). We find comfort in knowing that your family will always be around and the right time will come for us to spend more time together…until then, we must wait.

On the football side of things, we are happy that you maximized your time in the US (and with us). You are well prepared for next season. We heard you have been doing well in pre-season practices (a luxury you didn’t have last year). There’s no doubt that you leave us in better all around well-being than the one you had upon your arrival. We are proud to say that we accomplished so much together and in the process our family worked on several aspects of your life that will help you become yet a better person and player:

Emotional aspect:

First, making it back from Porto safely was the initial obstacle we overcame as a family. What an odyssey!!! How can we forget the anxiety of your trip home? Once home, those days you spent quarantined in your room upon your arrival went by slowly. It made us value the most banal things in life. Now that you returned to Porto, we honestly envy you. Sure the world is wild right now but the US is undergoing some dramatic social, political, and economic changes that you can do without and luckily for you Europe doesn’t have to worry about any of it nowadays. You will be better off in Porto.

Secondly, when your brother arrived home from Louisville, your emotional tank gradually filled up. Your sparkling smile was even more remarkable…seeing your brother, to say the least, reinforced the unbreakable bond you two have. Also, spending the last “vacation” days with him was the best decision we could have made. You guys feed off of each other’s energy. We know that your emotional well being is beyond its maximum level as you traveled back. You take with you all the Louisville memories.

Jogos in Lynn-Family stadium, Louisville, KY (06.30.20)

Hanging out with your friends didn’t hurt either. Although physical interaction with the Chum Chat crew was initially limited for obvious reasons, once you met, plans for the second season came to fruition. Gradually, the quarantine cleared up for everyone and you were also able to hang out with friends from FWC and old football teams. You grew your emotional IQ significantly over the summer.

Chumchat crew getting ready for season 2

Seeing family, celebrating child’s day, mother’s day, mom’s b’day, father’s day, and dad’s b’day were the cherry on top. It filled your soul (and ours). The only major celebration we missed was your birthday but hey by now, you are so used to it. Soon we will celebrate many of them together. Thanks for spending an abundance of time with us.

Celebrating mom’s birthday, Brownsville, TX (05.25.20)

Medical:

You return to Europe is in a similar situation in which you made it home back in April…with a lot of medical uncertainty. The extreme measures against the pandemic are still rampant. However, we are glad you are escaping not just the the domestic health madness going around these days (especially here in Texas). Above all, we are glad you are healthy in Europe. While you were home, we took care of all your routine and preventive medical needs so you should be in excellent shape until the next time we see you. It’s important for families to understand the relevance of preventive medical care to avoid injuries.

Contrary to when you left last year for the European trials where you were nursing an unnecessary injury sustained due to medical negligence, you now are healthy. Super healthy. We took excellent care of your body while you were with us. Sometimes, MLS clubs, due to their staff shortages (or other reasons) can only do so much to treat players. Remember, their medical care, especially at the young ages, is very reactive rather than preventive. Be aware families.

Technical and tactical

The daily rigorous practices with Ricky, Jogo, FCD and Solar ex-teammates prepared you technically and tactically well for next season. You are good to go…and the few practices you have had at Porto so far are proof of it. Keep killing it.

Ricky (Denton Diablos), Jogo (Louisville), Freddy (FC Dallas) and Johan (FC Porto)

Honestly, what I will miss the most will be our Saturday football sessions followed by our picnics. Those were priceless.

Book

Last but not least, you found time to finish your book; we are now in a searching mode. If anybody knows of a good illustrator, recommendations are accepted. More to come on that. Glad that you are exploiting your God-given talents.

Exodus 35:10

“All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the LORD has commanded”

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Farewell Johan…and happy B’day…from mom

Saying goodbye was not what we expected, but it was definitely an unforgettable event…

We first dropped you off at the airport on Tuesday with your corresponding negative COVID-19 test result in hand. You carried a folder with copies of every possible document you may need to travel to Portugal but were we in for a surprise. We walked up to the AA counter 2 hours early ready to check in your bag, walk through security and board that flight to Madrid with ample time. We were welcomed with a bit inexperienced AA agent who was unsure what was required to be allowed to enter that country.

To be fair, we are living unprecedented times, where rules and restrictions are changing daily. After consulting with multiple colleagues, a supervisor, and an hour and a half later, she denied you check-in.  It wasn’t the end of the world, right? We could always try again the next day or wait for the travel ban to be lifted. How long was that going to take? 2 weeks? 2 months? We wanted to help you start the pre-season on-time. FC Porto was very supportive and willing to issue us another ticket as needed; however, we felt that waiting was not an option especially with the uncertainty and number of COVID cases rising in the US.

We left Terminal D calling the Portuguese Consulate offices in Houston and Washington DC and leaving voice mails. Where could we get the documentation needed to let you board that plane? What else could we do? We knew other players in your situation had recently traveled back to Europe. That made us think about another option: find a different airline. Delta had a couple of options with two layovers the next day and so we turned around and drove back to the airport to get to Terminal E.

The terminal was very quiet, no travelers in sight.  We approached the Delta counter where we found two very helpful and friendly customer service agents. We explained your situation and they immediately checked the US Embassy in Portugal website with specific requirements/restrictions to travel during this COVID-19 pandemic.  According to such website, the only requirement was to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the last 72 hours. You had such document along with an employment contract, so we decided to move forward and purchase the ticket for the next day.  We wanted to make sure everything was approved and cleared in their system so you would not encounter any issues the following day. The agents, one of them a Portugal native, confirmed you had the correct documentation, so we purchased the ticket, called the back office for approval and gave you 2 boarding passes (DFW to ATL and ATL to CDG).

We drove back home hopeful, but doubtful at the same time. The flight was not direct to Europe, you had 2 layovers before reaching your final destination. Would you get “stuck” in one of them? Would you be sent back home? At the end of the day, we were happy to have you with us one more night. We stopped to get some food (Chik-Fil-A) and got ready for movie night (as usual). You didn’t’ even unpack as we had to be at the airport at 9 AM the following morning so you got one more chance to put Chuy to sleep that night and I got one more chance to see you wake up in the morning.

One last chicken sandwich in the US

We arrived at Terminal E at 9 AM, boarding passes in hand and several additional documents (translated to English) just in case. Since you already had your boarding passes, you really only needed to check-in your bag one-hour prior to departure and head directly to the gate. With our experience the previous day, we decided to arrive early and I am glad we did because we were in for another surprise.

Chuy is going to miss you!

The lady at the counter proceeded to call the back office as we explained what transpired the previous day. Once again, they requested an official document from the consulate or an official governmental office giving you permission to enter Portugal. The call ends without the approval needed, but the customer service rep continues consulting others and talking to us. The agent who helped us the day before who was fluent in Portuguese was not working at this time. They see the ticket was purchased the previous day and a call was made for approval, but no notes were put into the system with the details of such conversations.

so we try again, we show the documents from the embassy stating that “professionals with employment contracts are allowed to travel”. We also found the ID number of the immigration application for residency submitted to the SEF (border control government agency). That along with the documents FC Porto provided us ultimately convinced them we had what we needed so they called the back office one last time. It is now 10 AM, 60 minutes before the flight to Atlanta departs.

Finally, after a lot of paper shuffling and pacing back and forth, approval to board was granted. It was 10:24 AM and the flight left was leaving at 11:05 AM, they checked in your bag, gave you a boarding pass and wished you luck. I was standing with you at the counter, dad was with Joana just behind us with your other bag. You quickly grabbed your back and rushed to security walking along side dad as he gave you some final instructions and things you might need. Joana and I are behind you, I am looking at you walking away with your folder, documents and passport in one hand your water bottle and bag in the other and I’m just praying you don’t drop or lose anything.

It all happened so fast, there was no time for any pictures this time, we just waved goodbye. I remember you looked back at us and said, “Thanks for everything, I love you guys very much” and as you’re zig-zagging through the ropes towards the TSA agent, I just wanted to run and hug you, but you made me promise not to cry so I let you go. You had enough things to worry about in the next 24 hours. Besides, I was grateful to have had you another night, or really to have had you for three full months. It was time for you to return and you were more than ready.

30 minutes prior to departure @ DFW Airport

This was definitely a learning experience for all of us. One that dad thought he should share with other families. It would have been more convenient for us to wait for the EU borders to open and have you stay home a bit longer but that was risky. As a parent, that would have been the easy choice, but at this point, we are experts at making difficult decisions that we know will ultimately benefit your long term goals. Lesson for up and coming football parents.

It’s hard to believe you have been in Portugal for a year now. You left right before your 18th birthday and today you have yet another birthday away from home. May this last teenage year get you one step closer to your dreams. Happy 19th birthday son!!! (Feliz cumpleaños mi niño)