Category Archives: Learning

How’s the German football 3.Liga different?

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:

League

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.

Promotion/Relegation

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.

Physicality

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

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

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.

Stadiums

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.

TV Rights

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.

Geographic Location

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.

FSV Zwickau’s team bus

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 with two assists in the most recent SachsenPokal

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

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Peculiarities about Germany

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.

Culture

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 of us 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.

Language

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 my 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.

Homes

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.

HVAC units

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.

Dryers

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
Windows

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.

Cars

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.

Driving

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

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.

Environment

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.

WiFi

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

Street musician, 11.01.21 (Leipzig, Germany)

2021 in hindsight for the Gómez’s

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

January

Personal

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.

National/Global

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.

February

Personal

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.

Jogo’s transportation to practice. 02.01.21 (Louisville, KY)

National

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.

Sometimes adversity brings out the best in people

National/Global

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.

March

Personal

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.

National

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.

Global

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.

April

Personal

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.

National

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.

May

Personal

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).

National/Global

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…

Cruz Azul 05.30.21 (CDMX, Mexico)

June

Personal

After returning from the senior Mexican National team camp, the month proved to be a very prolific one for Jogo. He was selected for the preliminary Gold Cup roster and then he recorded his first three assists of the season and scored his first two professional goals.

National

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.

Global

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

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.

Personal

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.

National

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.

Global

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.

Tokyo Olympics:

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.

NBA Finals

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.

August

Personal

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.

National

Gold cup

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.

Global

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

September was a great month on the personal footballing side of things…

Personal

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.

Johan officially opened his scoring account in Germany and scored his first league goal and bagged his first hockey assist in the same game. He’s continued to have success in the league and we are looking forward to what 2022 has prepared for him.

October

Personal

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.

National

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.

November

Personal

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.

WC Qualifying:

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.

National

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.

Global

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

December was an extremely busy month from a sporting perspective and it hasn’t yet concluded. History is still being written…

Personal

Jogo is called up to the USMNT.

USMNT Callup

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…

National

Liga MX

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.

Football

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.

Global

Formula 1

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!!!

  • Verstappen 395.5 points
  • Hamilton 387.5 points
Brasiléro

On December 9th, and after 50 years (another resurgence) of their last championship. Brasil’s Atletico Mineiro, featuring players like Hulk (BR), Diego Costa (SP), Eduardo Vargas (CHI). win the 2021 Campeonato Brasiléro Série A.

2022

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.

Personal

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

Global

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.

Social Media

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!!!

College soccer (football) explained for players and parents

Choosing to play a sport in college is not only a great honor but a strategic life decision and one that is preceded by years of preparation and sacrifices (both academic and athletic). Soccer (notice that we don’t call it football) is no different. Making that decision can be complicated especially for first time parents or parents of players who have a genuine shot at football professionalism. The decision-making process is long, arduous, and overwhelming. Preparation is the key.

FCD’s emphasis is soccer; with the production of great soccer players, colleges come knocking

Playing soccer in college is a very viable path to continue enjoying a variation of the beautiful game albeit at an amateur level. In some rare cases, that choice could still be an excellent option to reach professionalism (Daryl Dike) while getting “compensated” (free tuition, room and board) for it. Unfortunately, most college soccer players who become professionals do so by cutting short their academic years. In fact, the number of college soccer players who complete a college degree (Andre Shinyashiki) and find professionalism afterwards is decreasing at rapid rates due to the growing professional competing paths: USL-1, USL-C, MLS, MASL, playing abroad, etc..

USL Championship is another vehicle to professionalism diluting college soccer talent

If the family (and the player) have a desire and options (scholarship offers) to play at the college level, be selective about it. With an increasing dilution of soccer talent in college soccer programs, college coaches recruit aggressively; however, don’t rush into a final decision. First, figure out the main motivation for pursuing college soccer instead of any other alternative. Once the decision to pursue college soccer is final, then select the program that best suits your needs.

If the main reason to pursue a college education is to use college soccer as a bridge to professionalism, give more weight to the college soccer program reputation and track record over academics in your decision. If it’s the other way around, research the academics thoroughly based on future academic interests and expectations. Soccer often can be an excellent vehicle to pursue an education at a prestigious school that would otherwise not be available purely on academic merit.

Aldo Quevedo. FCD Academy product

There’s not a formula that fits all families. Once the decision is made, do your due diligence to avoid surprises and maximize the college (soccer included) experience. Below are some additional soccer factors to consider.

Soccer…not football (differences):

College soccer is different than normal football. It’s as American as it can be: dramatic, physical, and win at all cost emphasis. Wins are needed to help the program be ranked higher, systematically leverage the ranking to get into the College Cup tournament at the end of the season, and get better future recruits (it’s a self-benefitting mechanism). Similarly, matches cannot end in a tie during regulation. Therefore, there is drama until the last second of the game and most (if not all) programs are driven by immediate results which inevitably impact the product on the field.

Some would say that, the brand of “football” played at the college level is not the most aesthetic. The NCAA rules do not help its perception either. Allowing up to eleven substitutions only encourage the game to be more athletic-based than regular technical football where less than half of those subs are allowed.

Playing with/against older players makes the game more reliant on experience than pure talent. It’s very rare for freshmen to receive an adequate amount of playing time. Since the year 2016, an influx of older foreign players who have given up professionalism in their respective countries, has migrated towards NCAA programs in pursuit of a free education and a last chance to professionalism in the United States. Let’s analyze some other NCAA rules further:

Rules

NCAA soccer is governed by 17 rules similar to FIFA’s football laws of the game; thus not much change in quantity. The main changes are on quality:

  1. Season duration: It’s a compressed fall season with 18 to 20 games in a 10 week period. In the same period, non-domestic football clubs play (on average) half of that amount of games (without injury prone overtime periods). Lack of proper recovery often leads to player injuries.
  2. Roster size: On average, D1 schools carry 30 players but roster size is unlimited making it difficult for all players to find an adequate amount of playing time.
  3. Number of subs: There are eleven subs allowed per game; in some cases, the same sub is allowed to re-enter the field during the same period (2nd, overtime). It’s very common for players to not be used for entire seasons especially young ones (thus the concept of red-shirting).
  4. Overtime periods: If the score is tied at the end of regulation, overtime (two ten minute halves) is required. Then, the golden goal rule applies. Longer games with a shorter season (sometimes played in turf fields) magnifies the probability of injuries.
  5. Fields: For different reasons (ex. climate, financial, maintenance, etc.), some college soccer fields are turf. Stats (and personal experience) show that turf fields are more prone to injuries for soccer players.
  6. Game clock: The clock stops a lot (ex. injuries, goals, issuing of cards, etc.). It’s extremely American. In fact, the count-down clock is anti-football and sometimes annoying. What some people consider the most American aspect of it is the ten second public announcement type of countdown at the end of each period.
  7. Scholarships: In rosters of up to 30 players, there can only be 9.9 scholarships per team and the money (depending on the school) is not always guaranteed. The talent spectrum in any roster comprised of 30 players varies significantly.

Eligibility

Any high school student/athlete in good academic standing is eligible to play soccer in college. In fact, in normal years, most college coaches attend important tournaments such as former DA (now MLS next) showcases, Dallas Cup, GA Cup, etc. to recruit high-school aged players. It’s important the players display their best soccer at these high caliber events. However, per NCAA rules, coaches can’t contact potential players/families until the beginning of their junior year (more below). Note: There are ways to get around this rule by leveraging a club/high school coach for communication.

Recruiting:

Per NCAA rules, June 15 is the first day that college coaches can reach out to potential players (including emails, texts, calls, etc.) entering their junior year in high school.

This is the time when coaches will be in their best behavior for recruiting purposes and their sales pitch will be in full display. If there’s enough interest, they may eventually want the player to visit the campus during the player’s senior year These visits will be at the program’s expense (official visits) for players only; however, the number of paid visits is limited per NCAA rules. Official visits can only take place after August 1st of the student/athlete prior to the start of the HS junior year. Unofficial visits (paid by the family) follow a similar scrutiny.

Amateurism:

At any point, if the player continues to have serious aspirations to play in college, they should not sign any type of paperwork with an agent during their high school or college years. It’s okay to talk and receive advice from agents, scouts, etc. In fact, the genuine agents will advice the player to go to college if they deem that to be the best route instead of forcing trials that could only delay/prevent a potential free (or tuition-reduced) education.

Also, do not get compensated to play (sponsorships, one time gifts, etc.) soccer (there’s a recent NCAA rule change, please read this). Any financial compensation received from the school, could render college soccer eligibility void per NCAA rules. Note: There’s a loophole that some universities use as they are able to recruit international players who were professionals in their respective countries. Furthermore, if there’s a desire to supplement the short college fall soccer season, there are plenty of high level amateur leagues. For example, in DFW, we have “The Roja league” which offers great fall/winter and summer competition for college students without compromising NCAA eligibility. Other amateur leagues include the famous Premier Development League (or USL2).

Other aspects to consider

Once contacted by college coaches and the player and family are fully engaged comparing multiple soccer programs, there are many aspects to consider that can differentiate one soccer program from another. Here are a few to consider:

Coaching staff:

The rapport between player and potential coaching staff is instrumental. Coaching staff will do anything to recruit the player so genuine “chemistry” is often hard to discern. Speak to former and current players and their respective families for a broader opinion. Specifically, talk to those players who may not be getting much playing time. See what they like about the coaching staff and what they don’t.

There are some unscrupulous coaches out there. In our recruiting process with Johan, we were heavily recruited by an assistant coach who, throughout the recruiting process, omitted to disclose the fact that the then current Head Coach was months away from retirement. No insignificant piece of information but it spoke volumes about his character. He is now the Head Coach of that same program. Johan received a full-ride offer from that D1 program so no sour grapes but character is definitely hard to gauge. Always ask the question about the coaching staff tenure and plans to move on. You’d be surprised what some coaches are willing to share.

Character may be hard to gauge; however, technical and tactical teaching ability is easier. Watch the brand of soccer the interested college team plays and see if it’s appealing. During visits, players will be invited to watch a game. There are a lot of quality college soccer coaches; some are just awaiting an opportunity to be promoted to USL, MLS, etc. On the other hand, NCAA does not require minimum coaching credentials; thus, there is a significant amount of coaches without the proper coaching licenses or experience in charge of developing potential professional soccer players . That’s alarming. There are programs who incorporate former players -as part of the scholarships offers- as staff members. These former players have no coaching credentials in most cases.

Weather:

Has the player soccer always been playing at sea level or in beautiful Colorado? College soccer is not the time to move to a contrasting high altitude, or cold weather location. If the player has been playing in the Texas heat since youth, consider the repercussions of playing in cold weather (college soccer is a fall sport). After all, over half of the season games will be played at home. Do your research and select a program that fits the player’s desired playing conditions for a smoother transition. Moving away from home, is already enough of a change. Don’t add any more complexity to the move. Equally important to the weather are the program soccer facilities.

Facilities:

If the weather is favorable, does the school have facilities with natural grass or turf? If having their own facilities is important to the player, a college visit is a must. Some players prefer to walk out of their dorms and be 5 minutes away from the practice fields. Yet others prefer the commute on a bus to training every morning. Does the school only have turf fields because of their geographic location? If so, have you been injured on that type of surface before? Are you accustomed to that playing surface? Statistics show a higher incidence of injuries playing on turf fields. In some cases, and based on the player’s position (ex. goalkeepers), avoiding turf fields could be a determining factor in the college program selection.

Does the school have its own soccer specific stadium or do they share it with the American football program? What is their attendance like? For some players, playing in front of family, classmates and other athletes is important and could be a deal breaker when making a decision.

College career:

Just looking at the statistics, it is becoming less and less viable for players to obtain a professional degree (3.5 years) and realistically become a professional football player afterwards. It’s safe to say that if players have any aspirations to play professionally, playing more than 2 years of college soccer greatly dilutes (almost kills) those aspirations. However, for goalkeepers college may still be the most logical step in their careers since they have a different soccer longevity. That said, for other positions, college could be a temporary tangent to professional football that may ultimately shorten a career in soccer but cultivate other life professional possibilities. Every player’s path to soccer professionalism is unique.

The flip side is that there are programs/entire conferences (big 10) that guarantee the soccer scholarship money for the duration of a player’s enrollment at the university (provided the enrollment is interrupted by a bona fide reason). In those cases, the player can play a couple of college soccer seasons and secure scholarship money for life. Do your research, it is worth looking into it.

Season duration:

As mentioned earlier, regular season runs from the end of August to mid November (playoffs included). The spring semester is mostly used for training and scrimmages. If professionalism is a goal, this should not be overlooked. A college player can go several months from January to June (July is pre-season) without playing a significant number of competitive games. In a sport where repetitions to master technical aptitude is critical, reducing on the field time, truncates their soccer development significantly. Ask coaching staff what soccer activities are planned for the spring “season”. Some programs play friendlies against USL, MLS sides with USL, MLS sides dominating the outcome of those games. Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Program Reputation:

A close friend of ours recently selected Georgetown as his college soccer destination due to its recent success. It’s an important factor to consider. Flip side is that past history may not necessarily be a reflection of future performance; however, recent past history could be. Winning becomes a tradition in some programs (ex. Stanford, Indiana, North Carolina). Do your homework.

MLS players:

Does the school have a good track record sending college players to the draft and then on to MLS. If so, that may be an important factor to consider in the decision. In some cases, college coaches have a close relationship with MLS clubs (SMU->FCD)

Past experiences:

There have been players who have tried out professional football in a foreign country and didn’t like it. Below is an interview (in Spanish) of Jacobo Reyes’ (2017 U17 MNT WC participant) of his one-year college soccer stint at the University of Portland. He first became a professional in Mexico, then joined the University of Portland (somehow) and then quit college soccer to continue his professional career in Mexico. Players jumping ship in the middle of their soccer college experience could also be an indication of some form of instability.

Johan at FCD’s Chase signing party

Compensation (Scholarships):

By NCAA rules, playing in college will not earn players a salary; however, it earns you a free (or significantly tuition reduced) college education which in most cases is much better. If possible, select a school that has a good academic program AND a good soccer program. It’s the best of both worlds. However, remember that most soccer programs can only offer 9.9 scholarships but the good news is that coaches can be very creative in offering financial packages that cover most (if not all) the cost (asking former players to become part of the coaching staff upon graduation). On average, soccer rosters include about 30 players. That said, most kids do not get full rides but if you can secure a full ride, perhaps that offsets some of the factors listed above.

In conclusion, selecting a higher level university only for academic purposes is important. Trying to combine that with a selection of a soccer program is more convoluted. In the end, it’s a very personal decision and one that must be analyzed carefully. Becoming a professional soccer player doesn’t negate anybody the ability to pursue a college education but the cost of it will be out of your own pocket instead of the school’s. Some players, like Johan currently, pursue a college education, albeit at an slower pace, while being a professional player. That’s also another route. Invest in yourself!!!

Aside from the love for the game, the most important aspect of pursuing college soccer may turn out to be the completion of an academic degree with obvious (albeit not guaranteed) long term financial benefits. At some point, it becomes a win-win situation; free higher education and the continuity of the sport the player loves. I will leave you with this thought: In some cases, maybe the family and the player are not totally convinced of the best decision to make. Consider taking a gap year to be more comfortable with the final decision…as always, reach out if you have suggestions or new topics you’d like to see discussed. Until next time #theGomezway

Young footballers need to get a passport ASAP

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

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

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

Advantages:

Multiple Nationalities:

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

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

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

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

Master/learn another language:

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

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

COVID-19:

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

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

Traveling/tourism:

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

Professional reasons:

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

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

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

Cost:

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

Disadvantages:

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

Multiple Nationalities:

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

Attention:

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

Jogo posing with some fans. Credit: LouCity

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

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

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

Football’s unwritten laws/rules

Most of us football fans (aka experts) will pride ourselves in thoroughly knowing the ‘beautiful game’; some will claim empirical knowledge: “I have been playing since I was five years old“, “saw the ‘hand of God’ live in 86“, others may brag: “I played college at the D1 level” (applicable to American “soccer” fans). Our favorite one is when the Geography card is played: “I grew up in <insert traditional football nation>…err England, Argentina> or the social media one: “I have ‘X’ soccer followers on Twitter“. Yet others, in an effort to establish ultimate football credibility, will state that they played pro football with <insert football star’s name> but an injury prevented them from going further. Whichever the case may be, the common denominator is the football “expertise” that the average fan claims to possess.

Ironically, another common trait among some of us football “experts” is often that few actually know the most fundamental piece of information: the rules (aka as the laws) of the game. In fact, even fewer actually know how many laws of the game there are. Why is it important to know the laws of the game you wonder? Well, for starters, you can’t either play or critique a game that is not understood. More importantly, it establishes football credibility and honestly, keeps controversy discussions (ex. VAR, offside, refereeing, etc.) to a minimum. Second, it aids in one’s understanding and analysis of the totality of the game (ex. What quadrants are referees less likely to issue a yellow card?). Using non-existent words/phrases like “offsides”, “hand-ball”, “high kick”, “playing on the ground”, “scoring points”, etc. quickly gives it away. Third, it elevates one’s football IQ and if the knowledge is channeled correctly, one can become a better player, coach, official, fan, etc. If not for self-advancement purposes, learn the laws of the game to further appreciate the beauty of the game including the referees.

While it’s true that there are frequent revisions to the laws of the game, the quantity (and spirit of each) hasn’t really changed in a while (that could change quickly). Thus, next time, there’s a desire to boast how much you know “soccer or football”, please take some time to at least revise the latest revision of the laws of the game. All that being said, for those of you whose knowledge goes beyond the laws of the game, there are unwritten ones (some may call them clichés or rules) that only those who have played the game (at any level) would know by heart. Here are a few:

Players:

Former player rule:

When a player faces their former club, it’s an unwritten rule that the player will either score or have an assist. Nobody really understands the underlying reasons: chip on the shoulder, stamina, prove a point, luck, revenge, etc. Any of those factors could be a contributor. A recent example close to home, Michael Barrios, ex-FC Dallas player scored against his former team in Colorado’s 3-0 rout of ‘Los Toros’ earlier this year and then again yesterday. Below are additional examples from around European clubs. BTW, sometimes a lot can be inferred by the way the player celebrates their goal against their former club if you know what I mean.

Scoreline:

2-0 lead rule:

Some may say it’s a cliché but the reality is that one of the cruelest and most deceiving score lines in football is a 2-0 lead. Teams leading by this score tend to reach a relaxing comfort zone and that normally becomes a recipe for disaster. It’s always best to treat this score as a 1-0 loss; otherwise, complacency could become the precursor for an opponent’s comeback. See Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich game recently.

Goals:

Goal vulnerability rule:

Teams are the most vulnerable in the ten minutes after scoring a goal; nobody really knows why: zealousness caused by over celebration, high emotion, lack of discipline, etc. There have been studies done on it but some may still say it’s a cliché. Either way, it’s of utmost importance to celebrate the goal but hastily prepare to continue playing and scoring again; otherwise, the opponent could capitalize on the goal celebration distractions/mood and a momentum reversal can occur within minutes. In a low-scoring game such as football, you want to minimize the opponent’s chances of scoring. Be ready from the time your team leaves the dressing room to the final whistle.

Dressing room goal rule:

Similar to the reasons stated above, a team could also be vulnerable shortly after taking the field after from the dressing room (at either half). The USA vs Canada game on Sunday is an example of this. Although Canada dominated the US, the solid US defense kept Canada from scoring and the score was maintained throughout the match.

To be clear, if your team is scored on in the first few minutes of the game (dressing room goal), don’t panic and regroup. If a second goal takes place in the first 20 minutes, the final score line can get out of hand and result in a high scoring rout of your team. See the recent relegation-promotion Bundesliga playoff game between Kiel vs Koln where 3 Koln goals were scored in the first 20 minutes.

Double header in the 18th rule:

Everyone knows how efficient set pieces are (over 33% of goals are scored off of set pieces). Therefore, avoid offensive headers in your penalty area (normally from corner kicks). More specifically, avoid two consecutive (double) headers in your own penalty area as most of the time those will result in a goal for the opponent.

Free Kicks:

Determining the free kick taker:

As stated above, free kicks (set pieces) account for a high percentage of goals. Learning how to defend them starts with knowing who will be the free kick taker. Thus, whenever there are multiple players standing behind the ball trying to deceive the opponent as to who will take the kick, know that whoever placed the ball on the ground and touched it last will be the shooter. Defend accordingly. The other guy is just standing there as a decoy.

Managers/Coaches:

New manager rule:

Managers who take over for a team mid-season usually win their first game no matter how bad the team was doing prior. At the very least, the team won’t lose. Nobody knows what it is but the influx of new ideas and the concept that all positions are “up for grabs” seems to bring out the best out of all players.

We recently experienced this close to home in a LouCity loss against new Atlanta United II boss: Jack Collison. He secured his first win in his first match as the new head coach. After that win, Atlanta United has been unable to win in the 6 matches following the coaching change.

Referees:

Ejection rule:

Hand to the back pocket is always a red card. In pre-VAR times, there were no “if’s” or “but’s”. Once you saw that hand reaching out the back pocket, the player was gone. VAR has changed that a bit in that in some cases, the card could be rescinded. In general, there’s no point in arguing the red card unless it’s for game management purposes. It’s always best to minimize the walk of shame to the dressing rooms.

50/50 ball out of bounds rule:

After a 50/50 challenge and when the ball ends up out of bounds (especially in the referees quadrant), make it a habit to fetch the ball immediately. Having refereed games for over 20 years, I will tell you that referees, in the absence of a clear angle to grant the next possession will ‘often’ use the honor system and err on the side of whoever fetches the ball first. Weird but true.

Penalty Kicks:

Whenever a referee calls a PK in favor of team A in the first half, there a very high probability that he will try to compensate and call another one for team B in the second half provided the game is close. It’s human nature and referees are compassionate at times.

There are plenty more rules so this publication will continue to be amended forever...I should be charging for sharing this information. In summary, while it’s good to educate our kids (and ourselves) first on the 17 laws of the game; it’s just as good for us to know the unwritten ones whether you pass them on or not. No coach will ever teach you these unwritten rules. The game itself will teach them to you (and your kids) and sometimes in the cruelest of ways. One thing for sure, the sooner you learn them, the better prepared you will be and the narrower the football knowledge gap will be between us and the rest of the world. For more useful information, continue following us. #theGomezway

BTW, the next Chumchat season is around the corner, the guests have been busy making some football adjustments. For now, I’ll leave you with one of the latest episodes where one of current USMNT left-back starter talks about a multitude of things. He had a solid game against Canada. Get to know Sam Vines a little more. Hope you enjoy it.

Mexican national team call ups

Representing one’s country in any walk of life should be at the top of anyone’s list of honors. In football specifically, the player’s family, friends, teammates, coaches, technical staff, fans, etc. should all be joyous of such player accomplishment and if possible, the distinction should be celebrated publicly. After all, it’s a collective achievement. Why then would anybody want to impair such accolade?

A player under contract “belongs” to the football club; the club can and should reserve the right to release a youth player for a national team call up if the club circumstances are not favorable at that moment. Non-US call ups typically occur during FIFA international windows (which ironically, are not always convenient for MLS clubs) when players should be released by their respective clubs. Contractually though, players (amateur or professional) are bound by the club’s current competition/medical needs/concerns/restrictions and should adhere to them at all times.

In the case of a release denial (capricious or not) by the club, we advocate informing the player regarding the national team call up. If not an obligation, sharing the info should be a courtesy towards the player/family. The player’s confidence can easily be magnified just from knowing that the right people “are watching” and that perhaps the timing of this call up didn’t work out now but maybe the next one will. Transparent communication is key. The message to the player verbal or not would be: “Keep grinding as there would be other future call ups“.

When we started a relationship with Louisville City FC, we did so without hesitation knowing what to expect from a professionally ran club. See, despite a current abundance of injuries on the team, the staff not only immediately informed Jogo about the Mexican senior national team call up but allowed him to attend. Furthermore, it was celebrated publicly. Words can’t suffice: thank you. They clearly understand the emotional impact on a player and the potential future effects on the field.

In general, there’s absolutely no reason a call up (amateur especially) from any world football federation (even a rival one) should ever be kept secret from the player (or the family) by the club. After all, in the fast-traveling news and transparent communication world we live in, it’s almost impossible to keep a national team call up undisclosed. The result of such Machiavellian miscommunication from certain folks in a club can introduce fragmentation between a family and the club…

Having the opportunity to represent multiple countries is a blessing but one that carries a lot of responsibility for everyone involved. In general, genuine fans are very supportive for the boys having choices; unfortunately, few -maybe understandably- take the player’s choice personal. Truth be told, we prefer dealing with disappointed nationalist fans than not ever knowing about the national team call up.

This is a great opportunity for Jogo and as much as we wish we could influence how other people feel about it, we can’t. The life of a footballer is short and opportunities are often scarce. Jogo has earned it and we are so glad that in this case, the club has allowed him to participate in this training stint. Not only will he return a more mature player but one with life-enriching experiences that will also help Loucity in the short term. Jogo and our family will forever be grateful with the club. Thank you LouCity. #theGomezway

Jogo faced a variety of players in camp but Lainez was definitely one that he praised. Watch out for this guy. 06.01.21

Coaching changes are inevitable

Coaching changes are an inexorable part of professional sports. More often than not, coaches are judged by results…more specifically wins; however, sometimes they are not. When coaching changes occur due to undesired results, people tend to have different perspectives. Some would argue that immediate coaching changes are always necessary to bring new blood in while others (more tolerant) would prefer coaching process be honored and given time to yield the necessary results. It’s all situational.

In 2021, both of the boys teams have experienced a coaching change for what appears to be different reasons. Coaching changes always bring uncertainty for some and yet hope for others (staff, fans, and players themselves)

Johan

In the 20-21 season, given their financial recovery initiative, Porto B continued to rely heavily on their youth. After half of season of mixed results (accompanied by two previous seasons of similar ones). Rui Barros (a Portuguese legend) was sacked because Porto B was nearing the relegation zone at the end of January. By the league rules, Porto B is not eligible for promotion because Porto already has a team in the top league; however, Porto B is indeed eligible for relegation.

For Johan, the coaching change was an unfortunate event for two reasons. 1. Rui valued Johan dearly and although he never played him as a striker, Johan was developing well and was playing 90 minutes each game. 2. For Rui’s last two games as the coach of the team, Johan was out sick and couldn’t play. As soon as the new coach (Antonio Folha) took over, he adhered to the scientific method…no changes to the existing starting lineup. Well, Johan had not been part of it and has seen extremely limited action since Coach Folha’s arrival. In fact, one could say that Johan has seen more action with the first team than with Porto B. To exacerbate the situation, Coach Folha brought with him his son (see below) who happens to play the same position as Johan so naturally, it’s become more difficult to challenge for playing time.

We continue to be supportive of the team and Coach Folha although it’s a challenging situation; however, it’s moments like these that help players, and families grow together. We know Johan is dealing with it in a mature manner and has kept a growth mindset. He’s consistently making rosters and yesterday he finally saw some playing time when the team was already down 2-0.

Johan playing against Benfica

C’est la vie. Ironically, with Coach Folha, Porto B is in more danger to get relegated even when using mostly Porto first team players. In this particular case, a coaching change has not improved the existing situation. But rest assured, Porto B is NOT going to get relegated… In the event that Porto B team were to get relegated, the club will have to honor the coaching process, be patient, and keep Coach Folha until they earn promotion in the future. We shall see.

Jonathan

We can speculate as to what may have happened here but we won’t; Coach Hackworth is no longer with the club and unlike Johan’s case, it’s obvious that the decision was not based on results (post winning team in the US). His departure is a big loss for the club, its fans, players, and of course us (the Gómez).

Changes have started. Danny has taken over as the interim coach and that’s great news as there’ll be some continuity for Jogo. Time will tell. For now, we all need to rally our support for Coach Danny and new staff for the season that has just started. The first game was promising given all the injuries.

In sports, coaching changes will always take place. When they happen, new opportunities will become available for players that maybe did not have as much participation with the former coach or maybe the new coach will implement a new way of coaching like Johan’s. Whichever the case may be, change is constant and as fans, players, families, we must adapt. That’s the way life is. The following book: “Who moved my cheese?” is a short recommendation on the subject of change being always constant. I recently had a chance to chat with Coach Luchi from FC Dallas on a related topic. Have any of you readers wondered what could happen to the FC Dallas homegrowns when/if Luchi et al depart?

Speaking of FC Dallas, as we start wrapping up this post, Mourinho was recently named the new Roma manager last week. What will that bring for our good friend Bryan? Hoping it brings stability above all in his new journey. Mourinho is a polarizing figure. One thing is for sure; we are all rooting for Bryan because he’s always been a great kiddo and even a better player. His family is top class, and in the end, we are all in this together…we have been since the kids were young.

BTW, this week’s guest in Chumchat is Benji MIchel. He was requested by Daryl Dike and the chums came through. Meet University of Portland (UP) alumni. He’s good acquaintance of Johan from the UP days. Benji talks about what’s like to compete against Nani, Pato, for playing time, his preferred position, and his dual (Haiti) nationality. What’s like to play in Oscar Pareja’s (who wasn’t the coach who drafted him) system and of course his sneaker business on the side. How does Benji define success? Find out.

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