The German market has become a very enticing spot for young American footballers. For some, it’s become a stepping stone to bigger or different football stages. In a previous post regarding our first trip to Germany, I started to list a few peculiarities about visiting and living in Germany so this is more of a follow up hoping players, and families alike find it useful when their footballers (or any professionals) visit or make Germany their temporary home. Beware, some of the characteristics listed below apply to other European countries as well.
There is always the obvious nuances: culture, language, weather (for us Texans), currency, location, football style of play, etc. However, there are some specific aspects within those nuances that us Americans sometimes take for granted. Having spent half of the last three months living in Germany, I have noted a few peculiarities that I would like to highlight and share.
There’s a very important aspect that I would like to point out about Germans; they are known for their pursuit of perfection. They adhere strictly to a set of pre-established rules and values (and expect the same) such as: respect, efficiency, honesty, punctuality, social awareness, and other textbook characteristics. Most of their activities revolve around these values. Thus, in order to create a first good impression, it’s important to understand and honor these traits. After all, you are a visitor in their country.
For example, it’s important to adhere to punctuality because it could quickly work against you. A 5 PM meeting doesn’t mean 5:03 PM or 5ish. Be on time (early if possible); at first, it may be difficult because most 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.
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.
A lot of Germans live in apartments; that is because on average, Germans are more risk averse than Americans and are more comfortable leasing. Whether you own or rent, homes are not just smaller on average than in the US (I get it, everything is bigger in Texas) but they are also built differently. They are made of masonry which makes organic modifications to the building (interior or exterior) an elaborate task. Homes have to be designed efficiently from inception.
Most homes are not equipped with a central HVAC unit. Therefore, each room has its own heater (aka radiators). AC units are not common even in cities close to the sea (summers are very pleasant). It’s good to learn how to operate these units as the winters in some parts of Europe are harsh. Germany’s coldest months are January and February.
Most homes do not have dryers. Thus, the player may need to learn how to hang dry clothes after washing them. The winters may pose additional challenges to hang dry clothes indoors. There are several reasons why dryers are not popular in Europe (not just Germany):
Energy hoggers: Dryers are appliances that consume a lot of energy. Germans in general are very environment-conscious plus, the cost of energy is high.
Fines: Some German cities impose hefty fines to high energy spenders; Germans not only try to keep energy costs low but also avoid legal fees.
Clothes last longer: Clothes fade less when not machine-dried and thus typically have a longer lifespans. Hang-drying is very common even indoors
Most home windows open inwards: longways or sideways. Not only are they different but they are more energy efficient than US windows due to their triple or quadruple panes. Also, they allow better ventilation and are safer. It takes some getting used to with their multiple turning positions.
German drivers are required to have extensive training before they acquire their driver’s license. This training equips them for a spectrum of situations and as a result, driving in Germany is safer than in the US. It is hard to imagine having an autobahn in the US. Most Germans own manual transmission cars; however, this could be a trend in other western Europe countries as we experienced the same in Spain and Portugal. Leasing, purchasing or simply repairing an automatic transmission car is more expensive than a manual transmission one. Thus, it also makes financial sense to learn how to drive a manual transmission car before heading to Europe. You don’t want the young footballer to have to worry about learning to drive a manual transmission car, getting a driver’s license and on top of that, learning the traffic laws all at the same time.
Traffic lights are different. The transition to a green light goes through yellow (amber) first. Red->Yellow->Green unlike the United States and Mexico. Always be alert, there are traffic cameras everywhere. Be sure to honor speed limits; otherwise, you can quickly rack up speeding tickets fines. Speed limits do not have much margin for error (like in the US +/- 5 Mph). This is especially true in smaller cities (just like in the US) where speeding ticket revenue is relied upon heavily.
There’s nothing significantly different from the police other than they are present but their presence is not intimidating at all; I have never witnessed anybody getting pulled over. That being said, the “polizei” sirens are unique. They don’t really wail like our patrol cars; they have more of a pleasant sound. When I first heard them, the sound reminded me of the many Pink Panther French inspector cartoons I watched in my childhood.
Gasoline is really expensive even compared to the most affluent areas in the US. A liter of gas in Germany (about 25% of a gallon) costs about the same as a gallon of gas in Texas. A few months ago, the average gas price in Southeast (Saxon) Germany for a liter was €1.65. With those prices, one has to make each trip count which brings us to their environmental awareness and their heavy reliance on public transportation. There are some cities in Germany where certain car models are not allowed entry. They have high car emissions standards.
Germany ranks in the top 10 in the world for green countries. Germans are very environmentally conscious. One can see wind mills everywhere; the stored energy is used for multiple purposes.
Unfortunately, as green as the country is and as environmentally conscious as Germans strive to be, if you are a non-smoker like me, it will be difficult to get away from second hand smoke. A lot of public places are setup to be very inclusive and it’s inevitable to avoid second hand smoke. Thus, having a meal outdoors to enjoy the awesome summer weather could require some getting used to.
Speaking of public places, WiFi access (especially free) is extremely difficult to find unlike the US. Not only that, you will have to adjust your network provider’s data plan before you travel to Germany in order to get some decent cellular upload/download speeds. Otherwise, even playing a Twitter video will be impossible when not connected to WiFi. If you will reside in Germany, consider purchasing a phone and its corresponding data plan which gives you the benefit of having a local phone #.
Germany is beautiful. There are plenty of historical places in and around Germany for which you will want to take pictures and videos. Whether you are visiting or staying, make sure your data plan (and phone battery) is ready for all you will experience. We didn’t talk about the shortage of public electrical outlets in this post but those are also difficult to find so having an extra power bank is a good idea. You can revisit this post about “Going to trials, training stint? Checklist of what you may need Part 2” for additional peculiarities when traveling to Europe.
We will surely be visiting Germany (and other European countries) again soon. As we do that, we will continue to learn new “peculiarities” and will share them here. Until then. #theGomezway
Last year, we all begged for 2020 to end as we were ready to move on… now, here we are. Some would say we are better off while others may vehemently disagree. Personally, as the Gómez reflect upon what 2021 brought us, we must inevitably acknowledge some of the challenges at the global, and national levels of the past twelve months. Just like 2020 was a very tumultuous year from various view points: political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological to name a few, there is always the silver lining and we are grateful for the many lessons learned.
Our family was blessed in many ways but not without overcoming challenges. Reminiscing about this year’s events is a reminder to live each day at its fullest with no regrets. Thus, with a few days remaining in 2021, let’s recap some of the most notable events for our family and parallelly (especially sports) events around the nation and the world in chronological order. In the sporting side of things, 2021 could definitely be labeled as the year of the “sports resurgences” or better yet, “title droughts end“
After having spent the Christmas and New Year holidays with Johan in Portugal, Jogo finally returned home from successful Portuguese trials. We were very thankful for the invitations to train with different clubs during difficult times. Although opportunities with those clubs ultimately did not materialize, sometimes the journey starts with filtering out potential opportunities.
On January 6th, in an unfortunate turn of events, the US Capitol was invaded and attacked by a group of alleged President Trump’s supporters. Their objective was to overturn President Trump’s electoral defeat by disrupting a Congress session.
The Capitol was locked down and lawmakers evacuated while the rioters vandalized it. In the end, five people died with more than 140 people injured during the storming.
On February 1st, Jogo officially started his first LouCity pre-season. Frigid weather was awaiting the start of the first practice but that wasn’t going to be an impediment. In a fun, unplanned team-bonding activity, teammates, and members of the technical staff shoveled snow to make way for the first practice of the season. When one has clear objectives, a little cooler weather won’t stop the will to succeed…and on he went to his first practice of the season driving for the first time in treacherous conditions.
Winter storm Uri brought unprecedented weather which impacted the entire state of Texas (and some surrounding states) leaving millions of households without electricity or water. For us, the silver lining was that Joana and I were stranded at home for several days and we made a ton of memories surviving with basic stuff. We will cherish those moments forever. People all over the state came together to help in the most unexpected ways.
On February 7th, then-43 year old Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a franchise second Super Bowl LV (55th) victory. History was written as the Bucs became the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
In the process, Brady earned his 7th Super Bowl ring over heavily favorites reigning champs Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-9. He is the epitome of consistency.
FC Porto makes the difficult decision to rescind Portuguese legend Rui Barros‘ contract as the Porto B coach. The sacking unfortunately coincided with Johan’s nursing a slight knock. As the team quickly gets into a fierce Segunda Liga relegation fight (Welcome to Europe Johan), Johan sees his playing time gradually reduced. In an attempt to help Porto B survive the relegation battle, the new coach (Antonio Fòlha) started adding first team players to Porto B’s game day rosters which proved inefficient. In the last game of the season, in a lucky yet divine way, Porto B managed to stay in the second division, despite losing the derby against Benfica by a one goal (ultimately a point) difference and using 8 first team players in the game. Johan tells us about it in this article.
2021 was a memorable year for boxing legend deaths. On March 13th, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler passed away at the age of 66. Hagler was an undisputed middleweight champion, with his most-dominant performances coming in the 1980s when he defended his title 12 times. In 67 total fights, he was 62-3-2.
Other boxing legend deaths in 2021 included: Leon Spinks (February 5th) who is part of a very select group who once defeated the great Mohammad Ali.
BTW, this year, we also had the opportunity to visit the Louisville, Kentucky native Mohammad Ali museum. The museum is a must-see attraction if you are boxing fan -like I am- in the heart of downtown Louisville.
On March 27th, days after an Evergreen container ship became lodged in the Suez Canal blocking all commercial traffic, it was reported that it would take days to weeks to dislodge it. The 224,000 ton vessel first became lodged on March 23, with no sign of budging. On March 29, the rear of the ship was dislodged, but rescuers believed it would still take time to refloat the vessel and fully open the canal. On March 31, rescue missions failed yet again as rescuers announced that they may need to remove 706,000 cubic feet of sand in order to move it. Water may also need to be removed from around the area in order to remove the ship.
As a family, we made the calculated decision to allow me to spend a good portion of the USL-C season in Louisville to help Jogo out during this important year. After 60+ days of preseason, Jogo started regular season play on April 24th under then-coach John Hackworth. He performed well in a 2-0 victory over Atlanta United II. His first and last hockey assists for the season ironically coincided with his first and last games of the season.
On April 5th, the NCAA March Madness championship game was played at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. The big XII underdog Baylor Bears (which defeated my running horns) were crowned national champions by beating the then undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs by a score of 86-70. This was the first time the Men’s Baylor Basketball team won the championship game.
Upon FC Porto’s season conclusion, Johan briefly returned home after being away for an entire year and playing without fans. 2020 and 2021 will undoubtedly go down in the world history books as tough years for professionals and footballers were not the exception. Johan, playing exclusively as a midfielder, helped Porto B avoid relegation. FC Porto helped him become a more versatile player; however, we, as a family, ultimately made the difficult decision to leave the Portuguese market for the time-being. It was a tough, very tough decision. FC Porto is a great organization and the Portuguese market, like any other, has its nuances. Some may disagree and think that the Portuguese football market has historically been brutal for American players. Possibly true…we are working on a publication about the Portuguese football market. Porto as a city is such a beautiful, touristic, paradisiac place with a very easy language to learn. We’ll definitely miss it.
Meanwhile, Jogo received his first callup to the Mexican senior national team for training. During camp, he got to know all the players who were preparing for the new Nations League tournament.
At camp, Tecatito, and friend of Johan from Porto, confused Jogo with Johan and told him: “No mames gūey, se parecen un buen” (The resemblance of the two is incredible at times).
On May 30th and 23 years since their last league title, Mexico’s Liga MX Cruz Azul (my club) was crowned Guardianes’s champion reaching its 9th star after defeating Santos Laguna in both legs of the championship games. The victory hit close to home as the family bleeds blue. Without a doubt, its impact was felt internationally due to the many championship games Cruz Azul had previously lost in the most dramatic ways during those 23 years, and thus the inception of the verb: “cruzazulear“. A curse had been indeed broken. The game was extra special for all of me as Johan and I watched it together at home. Honestly, I shed a few tears of joy…
On June 6th, the USMNT defeated Mexico by a score of 3-2 in overtime to claim the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title. In a back and forth contest that had to go to overtime, the US team overcame a deficit twice. This would be the first of three victories by the USMNT over Mexico in 2021.
2021 marked what some would consider the end of Rafael Nadal era in major tennis tournaments. Nadal entered the French Open as the heavy favorite seeking to become the first man to win 21 majors and his 14th French Open. He reached the semifinals of the clay event where he encountered Novak Djokovic in a rematch of the previous year’s final. There, Nadal was upset by eventual champion Djokovic in four sets, in only his third-ever (two to Djokovic) loss at the French Open. Following his loss, Nadal withdrew from both Wimbledon and the Olympics citing a left foot injury. Prior to the French Open, Nadal had lost in the quarterfinals at another major: the Australian Open.
July was a very busy month in terms of sporting events and more so with championship stories that had not taken place in many decades in the international realm.
After a brief training period which included some scrimmages, Johan signed with FSV Zwickau. Managed by American Coach Joe Enochs who played alongside Gregg Berhalter, Johan opened another door in a different market for himself. He quickly showed his quality scoring a goal in his second friendly. Germany opened up its borders shortly after which allowed the family to go visit him and help him get settled in Zwickau. It was a memorable trip.
The closure of the US-Canada borders due to the pandemic forced the NHL to temporarily realign the teams in three US-based divisions and one Canadian division to limit travel. The top four teams in each division played each other with the winners of those games advancing to the divisional round. The four divisional playoff champions were then re-seeded by regular season points in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The winners of the Semifinals played each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. On July 7th, the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game 5 to win its 3rd NHL Stanley Cup Final.
On July 10th, Argentina (and Messi) finally won the 47th edition of Copa America by defeating archrival Brazil by a score of 1-0. I still remember watching Argentina’s last international tournament victory 28 years ago in 1993 vs Mexico. This trophy is ultimately what gave Messi the advantage to edge other footballers in the pursuit of yet another Golden Ball or Ballon d’Or.
The next day, on July 11th, Italy won the Euro 2020* by defeating England by a score of 3-2. Their last Euro was celebrated 53 years ago. For our family, it was a great moment having watched the Italy vs Spain semifinal game while in Spain.
COVID continued to impact the world of sports relentlessly. The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020 but a calculated decision was made to move them to 2021. It was an atypical Olympics without fans where, among many abnormalities, Simon Biles reminded us that it’s OK to not be OK. The USWNT wanted to return to their *normal* winning ways; however, in a surprising slow performance in bracket play, the team did not advance to the championship match. Instead, the team ended up earning a bronze medal against a tough Australian side by the score of 4-3 but underperforming in their journey.
We knew that the NBA was very popular in Mexico but now we have witnessed first hand how many fans follow it in Europe. To cement 2021 as the “come-backs” in sports other than football, after 50 years since their last championship in 1971, the Milwaukee Bucs defeated the Phoenix Suns in 6 games to win their 2nd franchise title.
Jogo suffered a slight knock in the game against Oklahoma City (played on turf) and missed Mexico’s first set of U20 MNT friendlies in Spain. Unfortunately, we are now experts at this type of adversity; in a similar fashion, back in 2020, Johan had missed the January U20 MNT camp and March friendlies due to injury and the pandemic respectively. Unfortunately, injuries are an inevitable part of this sport and yet, we, as a family, still struggle coping with these temporary setbacks. A few months afterwards, Jogo was fortunate enough to be selected again to play against France, and England in another Mexico U20 set of friendlies in Spain.
On August 1st, in another back and forth match, the USMNT defeated Mexico in overtime by a score of 1-0 to win the Gold Cup. This title marked the second consecutive victory in the summer over the Mexican rivals.
On August 10th, after 21 years spent at Barcelona, Messi and Barcelona part ways in an emotional yet expected announcement. A few days later, PSG announced the signing of the super star. His adaptation period in France has been nothing but easy so far.
September was a great month on the personal footballing side of things…
On September 1st, Jogo celebrated his 18th birthday and became eligible to sign with a European club. As a family, we had traveled to Spain in preparation for this event. On September 30th, the announcement was finally made public by LouCity and Real Sociedad. Read all about it in the link above.
I moved to Zwickau Germany for about 5 weeks to live with Johan. I loved every minute of it; we had not lived at the same place since he was 15. I’m grateful we got to spend some quality time together and I got to learn about a different culture during COVID times.
On October 14th, former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies of COVID-19 complications at age 84. Powell was the first Black U.S. secretary of state serving from 2001-2005, and had shaped foreign policy in leadership roles in a number of Republican administrations. RIP Colin Powell.
LouCity’s season ended prematurely in an abrupt and dramatic way at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies again in the Eastern Conference final game. Our family made the trip to St. Petersburg to support Jogo.
UEFA Champions League
On November 3rd, while I was still in Germany, Johan surprised me with tickets to attend our first Champions League game together in Red Bull Arena in Leipzig. We are making this a tradition, when he was at Porto, we had had the opportunity to watch Porto vs. Young Boys.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see Messi but we got to see Mbappe, Neymar, and the player who stole the show: “el fideo” DiMaria. The final 2-2 score did not disappoint. Spending time with my oldest: priceless. Looking forward to the next one Johan.
We indeed closed the year in a strong way by attending some other important international games.
Following the UEFA Champions League game, on November 15th, I attended the World Cup Qualifying game between USA vs Mexico game in Cincinnati. TQL stadium. It was a unique experience. The US squad beat Mexico for a third time in 2021. This time the score was another 2-0.
On November 2nd, the Atlanta braves won their 4th world series. This time, they convincingly defeated the Houston Astros (7-0) in the 6th game of the series.
On November 8th, after 20 months of having its international borders shut down, the US decides to open them back up. Unfortunately, I traveled back home from Germany on that day and the trip became longer than usual as security lines were super long. Patience is indeed a virtue.
December was an extremely busy month from a sporting perspective and it hasn’t yet concluded. History is still being written…
Jogo is called up to the USMNT.
Jogo received his first USMNT callup. One that would have never taken place if the Spanish working visa were not taking an eternity to process. He made his USMNT debut and played a small role in the only goal.
Jogo finally completes his move to Real Sociedad. This is what Xabi Alonso had to say about him back in October hoping that he would be with the team in November…
Honoring the slogan of the year of the comebacks, Atlas FC, after 70 years of their last championship title, defeated Leon in penalty kicks to win the Grita México Apertura title on December 12th. This game was even more memorable than my Cruz Azul’s May title due to their longer dry spell. En horabuenta a todos mis amigos rojinegros. I know the feeling of relief. There are many Atlas fans scattered throughout México and the US.
On December 28th, the ex-NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden passed away at the age 85. Some will remember him from his coaching days with the Oakland Raiders. He won a super bowl there. Yet others will remember him from his NFL broadcasting days (commentating my cowboys games) with his simple analysis. The younger generation will always associate him to the Madden NFL Football video games. In any of those facets, Madden will be remembered as a legend on and off the field and perhaps the person who has impacted the NFL the most with his relentless love of the game. RIP John Madden.
For the first time in nearly 50 years (another resurgence), the title frontrunners: Britan’s Lewis Hamilton and the Dutch Max Verstappen entered the final race level on points. Red Bull team’s Max Verstappen took Abu Dhabi’s pole position with a brilliant display but Mercedes team’s Hamilton shared the front row seeking his eight title.
In an ending fit for this most chaotic and captivating of seasons, that all changed when the Safety Car emerged late on, allowing Verstappen to pit again and attack Hamilton on the final lap of the season, the Dutchman passing at Turn 5 to close out victory and, with it, the 2021 drivers’ title for the first time. México’s Checo Pérez ultimate Red Bull’s team effort positioned Verstappen to win the race. What a race!!!
2021 was definitely the second consecutive COVID impacted year and as the famous Yogi Berra once said: “It’s not over until it’s over”. There are still a few days left this year and we must finish strong even as the daily COVID cases continue to set record highs. All in all, there are still several silver lining items to reflect upon. One being that we are definitely closer to reaching a new normalcy and that can only be encouraging news. People have started realizing what’s truly important in their lives these past couple of years. On the sporting side of things, many sports records/curses were finally broken. Thus, we approach 2022 with a lot of hope and expect that the new year brings us more pleasant surprises and more sporting history will surely be written. Here are some things our family will be looking forward to.
Togetherness is the fuel that keeps our family functioning. We hope 2022 allows us the ability to gather, reunite, and openly interact with one another. Recently, 19+ months passed since the last time our family was all in the same room. Well, that meeting finally occurred, of all places, at the DFW airport. Below are some pictures of us picking up Johan from his return from Germany trip and us returning from Jogo’s USMNT debut. It’s been very challenging and will continue to be so; however, if we were able to withstand 19+ months apart, 2022 has nothing on us with our recharged batteries and positive energy.
2022 will definitely start off a bit challenging for the family with Jogo’s unplanned delayed arrival to Spain due to his ongoing work visa dilemma. We are hoping he gets to register on time to be able to play in the spring. Either way, we will have to go drop him off in San Sebastian, Spain in a few days. Some tears will be shed but we know he will be in a good place and closer to Johan.
On Johan’s side, he is in a good, stable environment and we hope he stays healthy above all. If he can do that consistently, he will inevitably continue to play an instrumental piece in FSV Zwickau’s attack and impact game outcomes like he has been. He has settled in well in Germany and could be in auto-pilot mode the second half of the season. The family will go visit both of them in the next few months COVID-permitting.
The pandemic uncertainty has not gone away. At the beginning of 2021, we thought we had a vaccine solution for the Delta variant. Now, Omicron is here. Hope is the last thing to lose and we certainly hope 2022 turns out to be a better year for all of us. For now, we can only plan our pathways with the information available; in the process, there will be definitely be twists and turns that will require adjustments. Seize the day #carpediem
On a very football selfish personal note, 2022 will be a World Cup year and that’s always an event that draws global attention.
Qatar World Cup (WC)
Towards the end of the calendar year, the world will have a chance to witness the next WC. It will be the fist WC in the modern era to be played in the month of December. We are all so looking forward to it but until then, let’s keep in touch.
We are always grateful for the support towards our family. If you like to stay up on the latest and don’t follow us yet in other social media platforms, please do so. We have a variety of content. You can find us at the links below. Happy 2022 New Year everyone!!!
Football takes you to unimaginable places locally, domestically, or internationally. This past summer, we took our first family trip to Germany. Today, I’m writing about our next football trip which happened to be to Spain (San Sebastián to be exact). We hope you enjoy it.
It was a surgically planned trip. There were many moving parts and if any went wrong, the trip could have been a bust. Thanks to the flexibility that COVID forced us into at our workplaces and being the middle of the summer vacation for Joana, the Gómez’s were able to spend the week prior to the Spain trip in Louisville with Jogo. Fortunately, Johan had already returned to Europe for pre-season with FSV Zwickau avoiding yet another moving part.
We left Louisville on a Thursday afternoon with Kansas City as our initial destination. LouCity was scheduled to play Sporting Kansas City II (SKC II) the next day and the plan was to go watch the game, pick Jogo up after the game and then drive all night back home to Texas.
Not a minor item but we also spent Thursday night in Kansas City fine tuning the last few logistical details of César’s (Jogo’s uncle) trip from Mexico City to Texas. He would be joining us in Dallas to make the trip with us to Spain on Saturday morning.
Night before Europe
It was our first time visiting Children’s Mercy Park so we took the obligatory pictures prior to the game. Ironically, a few days after our visit to Kansas, the US Men’s National Team played three games there during Gold Cup. Jonathan was supposed to be with the team but this trip prevented him from making the final roster. Tough choices sometimes have to be made…
The game went well and Jogo had another assist and after the game, he briefly caught up with his long-time friend Tyler. Meanwhile, us parents made some new parent friends too; it was there that we learned that Tyler was heading to Germany soon after.
The drive to Dallas
After the SKCII game, we waited for Jogo to shower, finish his normal dressing room ritual and embarked on an all night (8+ hours) drive back to Texas. Upon arrival at home around 5 AM, we met César, rested for a couple of hours and continued on to the next stop of our trip: Dallas Lovefield airport.
We left home riding an Uber Tesla (first time for me in one of those). The automatic pilot was nice and worth the occasion. The complete trip would consist of multiple stops. Dallas to Atlanta, Atlanta to France, France to Bilbao, and finally Bilbao to San Sebastián.
Layover in France
We left Dallas Love Field airport at 12:25 PM to Atlanta. It was a two hour flight. Once we landed in Atlanta, we literally boarded our next flight an hour later (we had to dash to the gate) to France. The duration of the flight from Atlanta to France was approximately 7.5 hours. We arrived in France at 7 AM (midnight Texas time) on Sunday morning. Our layover in France made the trip longer but anytime you are with family; it’s all worth it.
The layover in Charles De Gaulle airport allowed us time to take a quick nap, practice some French and meet up with Mike. These trips are difficult for our aging (and aching) bodies and thankfully, we don’t have to undergo many of them frequently. Note: I have spent the last month in Germany.
From France’s airport, we boarded a 90 minute flight to Bilbao (capital of the community Gipuzkoa) in the plane pictured below. Most of us were really tired by this time and could not sleep well due to the turbulence and the short duration flight.
We arrived in Bilbao and were quickly greeted by our ground transportation. He took us on a beautiful 70 minute ride to San Sebastián. By this time, we were so jaded that we were unable to truly appreciate the natural beauty of the entire ride. We did however, on the way back, have an excellent football specific conversation with the chauffeur. The Euros (UEFA European Championship) were in full swing and Spain was doing well upon our arrival.
What a paradisiac city. We were still very jet-lagged Sunday morning and slept for a couple hours. Later in the day, we found a way to make it out to dinner with team staff. They took us to a beautiful restaurant with the most astonishing views in town overlooking the Bay of Biscay.
In the next few days, we had a chance to sight-see a few things while we were there. The most impressing was the sea. San Sebastián is adjacent to the Bay of Biscay and sunsets are very picturesque.
During our stay, we had an opportunity to tour the training facilities, stadium, and of course talk with Xabi Alonso at length. Of course, at the end of our conversations, the obligatory picture had to be taken. Excellent guy who rides a Harley to Zubieta (the name of Real Sociedad’s beautiful facilities). Everything was explained to us and there was not a question that went unanswered.
After we had accomplished all our objectives in San Sebastián, we went back to the hotel and relaxed a little. Well, the Euros were taking place and what a better place to watch them. Spain was playing in the semifinal against Italy. I remember we had to cut our shopping day short as stores were closing early; the entire country was paralyzed watching the game. Unfortunately, that day, Spain was eliminated in PKs. Here is video of the last PK taken by Italy. We felt bad recording but apparently we weren’t the only ones…better times ahead for Spain.
A few days later, we were back home. Jogo was playing at Tulsa and life went on as normal as it could given the circumstances…well, almost so, except that we now had these exciting news that we couldn’t necessarily share with anyone outside the family. It’s an odd feeling but rules are rules.
Until next time San Sebastián…
In a few weeks, we’ll be back. This time, we will be better prepared than when we landed the first time in Portugal or Germany. We speak the language, not Basque of course. Jogo will be in his new home, with new teammates, living in a different time zone, etc. Some tears will be shed (points at self) but God is good. All will be well.
Our awesome present
For now, the grind continues and Jogo and team just finished their regular season and now onto playoffs tomorrow. Good luck LouCity from Zwickau, Germany. God knows how much we will miss your setup and the people associated with the club. We will always rep the purple #Vamosmorados.
Jonathan talks about his entire journey (including the trip above) from his time at FC Dallas in this interview with the Chums. Give it a listen. We always appreciate the support to our boys and the Chums. There’s a new episode coming out in a few days.
After an almost 18 month hiatus from European trips, we managed to celebrate Johan’s 20th birthday in Germany -a tradition we broke last year due to COVID. From the moment he joined FSV Zwickau for pre-season, the club has showed him plenty of love and we were there to witness it all. Caveat: this post contains many pictures for us “visual learners“.
The experience was superb. The 5260 mile trip (just to Frankfurt) from the Dallas Fort Worth airport was all worth it. It was a 9.25 hour flight plus a 4 hour drive from Frankfurt to Zwickau but anytime you go see your son, distance is never a factor. Upon our arrival, Johan had just returned from practice and welcomed us with open arms (and a spanking spotless clean apartment). Mom was proud.
Renting a car was extremely easy from Enterprise; it’s normally very expensive but we found an excellent rate. We made a reservation for an automatic transmission and were given a VW Passat stick shift (which I loved). Driving in Germany is very fun other than getting used to driving in the autobahns. One needs to stay super alert especially while occupying the fast lane as there’s many no speed limit zones and there’s always a car going faster than you. That’s right, I was able to accelerate to 225 km/hr (150 miles/hour) effortless. Also, there’s no passing on the right lane. Absolutely none.
Station wagons are extremely popular in Germany and that’s what we rented. We first rented a 2021 Volkswagen Passat until it gave up on us. After that, we got a 2021 Škoda Octavia which we loved because it had a lot of bells and whistles that you don’t typically find in American sold cars. Both did a great job taking us all over Germany and the Czech Republic.
One of the first family activities we did was grocery shopping. Johan’s apartment is very close to an Aldi. We didn’t know that Aldi was a German company so these grocery stores are everywhere. Aldis got us out of trouble in a bind as their setup is very similar to what we have back home. Thus, even if you don’t speak German, it’s easier to locate items and navigate the store without needing to be fluent in German.
Having learned Portuguese the past couple of years has helped us learn other languages. Currently, we are learning some German but not at the same rate as Johan. He’s fully immersed in it day in and day out. Our first impression is that it’s not as difficult as people make it sound. Juan Carrera gave us some pretty good advice prior to our trip: the younger generation speaks English fluently due to their frequent social media interactions; however, the older generation doesn’t. It sets expectations when we were out and about. Some phrases that came in very handy:
Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros?
Ich bin Amerikaner – I’m American
Wo kann ich ein nei taxi nehmen – Where can I take a taxi (they don’t have Uber service in a lot of cities in Germany)
Zwickau is the fourth largest city in the state of Saxony. Located in the mid-Southeast part of the country, it is surrounded by a lot of wind farms. Summers are beautiful, and the 60-70 degree Fahrenheit summer days are ideal for strolling through downtown which we often did.
Zwickau is one of the centers of the German automotive industry. While there, we were able to visit the renowned August Horch Museum.
The automobile museum covers the history of automobile making in the town of Zwickau. It takes us back in time when the company Audi was founded by August Horch. Note: The first part of the museum is described mostly in the German language while the more modern sections are in both German and English languages. There may be English speaking museum tours available but there weren’t any when we went. Allocate at least two hours to see it all.
The museum is a must see for automobile lovers (especially German automobiles). There are cars that date back to both World Wars just as seen in the movies. The museum is housed within the old factory where Engineer August Horch established Audi Automobilwerke GmbH in 1910. Audi was founded in 1909. The four rings of the Audi (now subsidiary of Volkswagen) logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union.
Fortunately, we were there to accompany Johan for the obligatory club welcoming pictures. See Instagram post below. Good quality, wonder who took most of them.
Start of the season
The first game was at home (GGZ Arena) against recently promoted Borussia Dortummund II. From the moment we entered the stadium, that experience requires its own post so we’ll leave it at that for now.
We are glad we got to see your pre-match European ritual and at the stadium were treated as VIPs. Thank you Johan.
Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was a 1-2 defeat but it was a great game to watch (Zwickau should have won it). It was his first official game as a professional in Germany in his new position, with the first team. Johan had a very solid game. Below are a couple of actions where he almost impacted the game directly.
For the second game, we drove to Köln. It was a five hour (481 Km) drive from Zwickau on a Saturday morning but the fan support was never lacking and the game against Viktoria Köln did not disappoint. It was Johan’s first game as a starter and the final result was a 1-1. We took the obligatory pictures at the end of the match and coach allowed him to drive back with us. We made some memories on the way back and even got lost…
Mondays are normally off days for Johan and we always wanted to sight-see Berlin. The cosmopolitan city is not only Germany’s capital; it’s a must-see city with so much history. We decided to embark in the 300 kilometer trek in a one-day trip rolling down autobahn 4 from Zwickau. There’s so much to do and see, we’ll have to visit it again in the future.
Berlin Wall Memorial
We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s an incredible feeling when one is actually at the place where so much history took place. Quick trip but educational and meaningful for the “kids”. At a personal level, the Berlin Wall brings back so many -not so-pleasant memories.
Erected at 368 meters in the midst of the East Germany superiority, the television tower is the main visible landmark in Berlin and the tallest in Europe. We now have visited towers throughout the world. Dallas, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Seattle, etc. They all offer a unique perspective and view of their respective city. Unfortunately, an due to COVID protocols, we were unable to have lunch at the top of the tower.
Prague is beautiful. One must reserve several days to see it and truly enjoy it. Driving into it from the north, makes it seem like the old communist Czech Republic with its old coal power plans. However, once one reaches Prague, one finds a very cosmopolitan city with a contrasting of old European architecture everywhere. As any big European city, there are designer stores everywhere. We had an opportunity to visit Saint Charles Bridge, Town Square, etc. It was too short but we know we’ll be back to see Johan very soon.
Return to Germany
If the delta variant continues to spread in the US at the current rapid rate, it’s possible entry to Germany may be limited to non-citizens (us). There were changes made yesterday already (they are revised every two weeks).
Thus, we will return to visit Johan before October to ensure we regain entry into the country and stay with him an adequate amount of time to provide him family support. For now, we left him with his super equipped apartment (nice view), his car setup and more importantly, in great hands with Coach Joe and staff. Enjoy the time in Germany son. #theGomezway
Give Chumchat’s new episode a listen. Johan talks about his move to Germany from Portugal and how that is going. For those of you thinking about playing in Portugal, he compares the Portuguese playing style to the German playing style and sets some expectations based on his experience. Playing for the first team now is a different responsibility (player experience-wise); one that still carries the weight of a promotion/relegation eco-system but one that he has welcomed with open arms. Go show Johan and the Chums some love.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS. As always, thanks for the support for the children. We continue growing the sport in this country together. #theGomezway
…Ok, not quite yet; however, one of the silver linings of COVID has been our family’s ability to work from practically anywhere in the world. Within the appropriate restrictions and guidelines, we have been very fortunate to be able to safely (and semi-permanently) visit some family members during uncertain times. See, since late January of this year, we have made Louisville our second home.
Bordering the state of Indiana, Louisville is a gorgeous city with a wealth of history to offer to all of its visitors. Strolling through the 85 acres of Waterfront park has become customary and prolonging our daily runs/walks through downtown Louisville is now a routine for the family. We have loved every minute of it. Here are some of the highlights of our time here so far.
We don’t always arrive to Louisville by plane but one thing is for sure; both the skies and the roads always welcome us with open arms. Every time we arrive at the Mohammad Ali airport, there’s a sense of calmness and hospitality. COVID indeed plays a role in that solitude; however, you all should see how crowded the DFW airport was when the below picture was taken (especially during Spring Break).
Louisville Waterfront park
This public park is the closest green area near our new residence. Running parallel to the Ohio River, there’s something in it for all ages. There are spacious lawns, playgrounds for the youngsters, picnic areas for the families, boat docks for water lovers, Lincoln Memorial for history lovers, and possibly the most scenic attraction is the Big Four Bridge.
Our daily runs normally make us navigate through every part of it. When Chuy, our dog, accompanies us, we can’t take him across the Big Four Bridge due to the rules but otherwise, we navigate the entire park every outing. A part of the park runs underneath Interstate-64 which can get a little loud (our pet abhors walking under it) at times. Other than that, we have seen the entire park AND in every season of the year.
Back in January, we saw the park inundated with snow for the first time; it looked majestically white. As the snow melted and more precipitation fell, the vegetation started turning green and the Ohio River overflowed blocking parts of the park. Right at the heart of the park is Lincoln Memorial…
The Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront park is a must-see. A hidden cultural gem that centers around the 16th president’s Kentucky roots. In our walks/runs through the park, the memorial always drew our attention until we finally stopped by to admire it.
The memorial features a 12-foot statue of Lincoln seated on a rock (see below), looking out over the river. Four bas-reliefs (three pictured below) illustrate Lincoln’s ties to Kentucky. The memorial site features an amphitheater facing the river with granite seating that includes engravings of four famous Lincoln quotes. The canopy of trees that lead to the amphitheater includes several species that that were favorites of Lincoln.
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better”
– Abraham Lincoln
Adjacent to the memorial is one of the main attractions in Louisville: the Big Four Bridge.
Big Four Bridge:
Every time we go back “home” to Texas, we miss going on our interstate (Kentucky to Indiana) runs/walks across the Big Four Bridge. It is a metallic structure with so much history. Navigating through it, one can see a spectrum of folks exercising (walkers, runners, cyclists, etc.) or photographing. It’s so motivational and inspirational. Sunsets here are also very eye-opening. See below.
On the Indiana side (Jeffersonville), one can stop for a delicious meal at Parlour Pizzawhere the live music, the multiple tv screens with different sporting events make the atmosphere unique. We highly recommend it in between walks or after a run. The ample outdoor space is very welcoming.
LouCity Football Academy
Strolling farther down River Road, one will come across the new LouCity football training facility. It’s 6 fields with state of the art lighting, and configuration (love the L shape concept). During our first couple of month in town, we witnessed a couple of U18s/U19s scrimmages against MLS Next academies: Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati academies. Without revealing the final score, it suffices to say that the LouCity Academy is well positioned to compete against any MLS Next academy. Mario Sanchez and coaching staff are working hard to build a reputation and indeed made a statement in those two games. Outliers? Time will tell.
If one stops by the training facility any weekday, one can witness practices for any of the two Louisville professional teams. In fact, if you wait long enough, one may get to take a picture with a Champions League and world cup winner…a legend in women’s soccer.
Thurman Hutchins Park
Further down from the new LouCity football training facility, one finds Thurman Hutchins Park. Go there on Wednesdays and you will find a group of cosmopolitan football players of decent quality. Good pickup football being played from 4-6 PM. Music is good, level is better and weather is even more so. Players are friendly and skilled. We will miss them once we move back to Texas. The main reason we discovered them was because we went to watch a LouCity scrimmage against Central College. Jogo looked good.
KFC Yum Center
This place gets packed during college basketball season; unfortunately, we have not been able to be present for any of the Cardinal games or social events. Our time will come but it would have been great to see the #2 Louisville Lady Cards play against the #1 NC State. For now, it suffices to jog around it on the beautiful 65 degree afternoons.
Louisville extreme park
Growing up, what I would have done to have access to an extreme park like this. Extreme sports have been evolving at a rapid rate for many years and we are glad that the city of Louisville recognizes that growth and offers a venue for the practice of such modality. I am envious but happy that so many extreme sports enthusiasts get to use this park on a daily basis. Lighting is great and it’s open 24 hours a day. A must-experience for extreme sports enthusiasts. Growing up, my extreme sport was bicycle freestyling.
Lynn Family Stadium
And how can we forget the “cathedral”? For football fans, it’s a must-see. The behind the scenes tour is spectacular. We can’t wait for the day when the cathedral is able to entertain at full capacity. The Coopers in one end of the field and the Morados in the other.
Starting today, we will be attending several games watching both Racing Louiville FC and in a couple of weeks LouCity kick off their respective 2021 seasons. We are so looking forward to those events and of course continue exploring this beautiful city. Until next time…#theGomezway
BTW, listen to the latest episode of Chumchat when you get a chance. USMNT U20 MNT player Cameron Harper explains his return to MLS. He talks about his time in Scotland, the playing style in that league, his upcoming competition at NYRB and of course his own definition of success. As always, thank your for your support to the Chums and the USMNT program through exploring the different player pool personalities.
Last week we were observing Joana’s final football practice of the year. Since most players were already out for the holidays, the session consisted mostly of 3v3 play with players from other teams participating. The girls seemingly had a blast and it brought back so many memories. It then became tempting to write about 3v3 as a football development tool like we did with futsal.
Just like other tools which include indoor soccer, private training (i.e. Coerver), Olympic Development Program (ODP), “the wall”, street football, beach football, football tennis, etc. they all have their unique usefulness. In the future, we may also write about those. Today, we will be writing about 3v3 and its advantages and disadvantages as used extensively by our boys.
For those unfamiliar with 3v3. It’s a small-sided variation of football where 3 players take on the opponent’s 3 with no goalkeeper. For a better definition including its rules, check 3v3 Wikipedia’s page. It’s the fastest growing form of the sport in the United States. Our boys played small-sided A LOT (concurrently with “outdoor” football, futsal, etc.) for several years; it not only aided in their football development in a fun environment, but also provided a platform to compete at a high level at an early age. For parents with young kids interested in football, you may find this post useful. BTW, thank you Quickfoot, Kick it 3v3, Live 3v3, and many other organizations. We had a blast and the memories are countless.
The year was 2010 and we knew that one (sometimes two) practices a week at Solar for Johan were not enough to quench his football thirst. His desire to knock the ball around was just too frequent. We had played, coached and officiated the game all our lives; ironically, we had never coached 3v3 competitively (only rec.). It seemed fun so we said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. And on we went to participate in Quickfoot’s 3v3 at Keller High School. We coached both Johan’s 4v4 and Jogo’s 3v3 with very little preparation and picking players from their current club teams. The outcome? Johan’s team won while Jogo’s earned second…the seed was planted from then on.
The tournaments in Texas became frequent and the competition was excellent. It gave us an adequate amount of preparation, and confidence to want to take our teams to higher level competitions. We participated at the national level in Orlando three times. Jogo’s team (MOB) went on to win the 3v3 national championship in 2013, our team (La Banda) won third place in 2014 and (MOB) reached the quarter finals in 2015 playing up. Johan’s team only participated once and took 3rd place in 2014. We had the pleasure of meeting many future YNT players at these 3v3 competitions.
Oftentimes, positive results build confidence and perpetuate a love for the game and that’s what we achieved with that group of boys. As of now, every single one of them will be playing college soccer or playing football professionally. We will always be very proud of this group of players and grateful to their parents for allowing us to coach them. We built something special together which has transcended the football field. That said, here are few things we learned along the way…
More touches on the ball
Smaller rosters naturally translate into more touches on the ball. We typically carried 5 or the maximum-allowed of 6 players to maximize time on the ball. All players had about the same technical and tactical level and played an equal amount of time.
Technical aptitude and tactical awareness
Technical aptitude is enhanced by the amount of repetitions generated by smaller rosters. Specifically, muscle memory in a competitive environment is gradually developed to the point of normalcy; it ultimately leads to higher confidence and creativity on the ball. For example, if you have a player who likes to dribble, 3v3 has a ton of space for them to hone that technical skill, become proficient at it, and try out new skills.
Even though it’s a small sided competition, players are tasked to cover a lot of ground which teaches them accountability: play offense and defense simultaneously. The game requires constant decision making by the use of imaginary geometric triangles on the field to figure out ways to outnumber the opponent in order to create scoring opportunities. Players not only learn tactical (positional) awareness but also movement off the ball which can be extrapolated naturally to a normal size football field.
Of all the football development tools, 3v3 is probably the least expensive and the one that requires the least time commitment. It’s typically half of a day worth of short-duration games (normally in the offseason and a Saturday) which is also very fun-packed for players and parents. Sometimes the out of town tournaments could last two to three days but those would normally take place over a holiday weekend and the cost is not significantly higher.
In Texas, there is plenty of strong competition; thus traveling is not necessary and costs can be kept to a minimum. However, if there is a strong desire to compete elsewhere or the “harshness” of the winter prevents outdoor play, there’s always 3v3 indoors.
The game is versatile and can be played indoors too. Most of our competitions were outdoors but we certainly enjoyed playing indoors as well. The indoor 3v3 tournaments were sometimes played in basketball gyms, indoor soccer fields, or futsal courts (3v3s led us to discover futsal at City Futsal). The tournament experience with family and friends was unparalleled; those football bonds are still strong to this day.
We loved having the opportunity to play with players from other clubs. We now reminisce about those times via pictures and clips.
Not only were the tournaments good opportunities to socialize with other families but great bonding times where we created a lot of our own family memories.
More than the football aspect of the entire experience, the boys will always cherish memories with friends, family, teammates, opponents and most of all, the fact that we got to coach them. Those 3v3 memories will live in our hearts forever.
Style and drip
Just like the players wanted to express themselves on the field via their football, they loved selecting their “drip” (and team name) regularly. We mostly stuck to two uniforms per tournament. All were replicas of the original jerseys and purchased via a Chinese supplier for less than 25 dollars for the entire kit. They were very affordable and allowed us to wear different kits like the professionals. That was another cool reason for playing 3v3. The kids could emulate their idols and personalize their jerseys. Jogo became well known as Jogo via his jerseys but let’s not forget that the original Jogo was Johan.
Johan’s first coach at Solar was completely against 3v3s. We always assumed he felt threatened by the possibility of losing players at these events as 3v3 teammates normally belonged to different clubs and inevitably parents socialize. It became difficult to request permission to participate in 3v3s even during off weekends as Johan’s Solar coach frowned upon it. He was an older coach too but we felt this truncated his 3v3 development to a degree.
Similarly, there are parents who think that football development tools such as 3v3s and futsal are NOT adequate for goalkeepers. That couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Jogo played futsal with what would have been one of the U17 MNT goalkeepers (U17 MNT WC was recently cancelled): Jeff Dewnsup whose footwork was phenomenal for his age. This was probably one of the characteristics that gave him national team visibility. Both Johan and Jogo played 3v3 with numerous goalkeepers whose footwork improved as a result of the competitions. Truth be told 3v3 can become addictive.
3v3s are very addictive. They are high scoring ordeals which could be decided in the last second of the game. They cannot get any more American than that.
There are parents who want to compete in them all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that level of involvement. However, at some point it could create a conflict with club football and other life activities. As long as your family knows how to manage the experience and you have a club coach who supports it, go for it. The 3v3 coach may want to define a style of play and shuffling players due to their unavailability makes it challenging to gel as a team. We were fortunate to have 6 very committed families for several years who were as crazy as we were about it.
There are many tools to build and improve a player’s football development. Each one serves a unique purpose. There’s no silver bullet to develop a footballer; there are however, many ways to nurture the love of the game by “making it fun”. As you reflect on your achievements for 2020 and plan for your kids activities for next year, consider incorporating 3v3s into their pool of available activities. You won’t regret it.
On a personal note, we will conclude this post wishing everyone a better year than 2020. For the Gómez’s, it’s was a challenging year in many regards but a blessing in others. We’ll be re-capping the year in a future post. For now, let’s be hopeful, patient, positive and most of all, safe. As always, reach out to email@example.com for comments, questions, etc. Thanks for reading us and happy 2021. #theGomezway.
I will preface our family status by addressing the elephant in the room. It’s been a shocking past couple of days for the football world since Maradona’s passing. There’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said already. He was a polarizing figure off the field but he earned the respect of most of us on the pitch.
From a football perspective, his legacy will live with us forever and we are grateful our eyes witnessed his God-given talent. Living in Mexico City in 1986, his impact on me was exponentially magnified; however, I first laid eyes on him in 1982 with Brazil robbing my attention most of that WC.
His life becomes more remarkable when you read his autobiography. I first read it 20 years ago when it came out. I’m giving it a second read now and truly recommend it if you have some spare time over the holidays. You will understand a lot of his decisions and learn some about his preferences:
Maradona started off as a defender. He appreciated the ability to see the whole field and the additional time to make decisions. (soccer IQ)
He had 7 siblings living in Fiorito. He had a very humble upbringing but always surrounded by a close-knit circle of friends and family (failure was not an option)
He acknowledges his comfort with the ball stems from spending 4-5 hours daily from a very, very young age (unstructured repetitions and muscle memory)
The worst day of his life…the day he learned he was not part of Argentina’s 1978 WC squad to be played at home. This was the reason he “only” played 4 WCs (setbacks fueled him)
The “Hand of God” goal was not the first one of its kind he ever scored (gamesmanship)
Why did he often wear two watches when he traveled? (loyalty)
I could go on and on about him but onto family matters…as the show must go on…
Solid crescendo performance helping your team win another tournament. You improved on technical and tactical aspects of the game that you had been honing.
To us, the progress was the real win as we know game results are circumstantial. We loved the total control you displayed of effort and attitude. So proud of you mamita!!!
Due to the international break, Johan had the past two weekends off but participated in training with the first team. Good stuff on both of the scrimmages. Continue seizing the opportunities and getting all the available playing time. Baby steps. We now move on to actual games.
Successfully and safely left Denmark and has finished a new quarantine. He continues to train with/against top competition and most importantly, staying healthy, and in shape during the long off-season. The objectives of the trip are being met.
Yesterday was the first of its kind where we didn’t have the boys with us. Considering we spent the last one in Portugal, it was somewhat expected. We are grateful for what God has given us. Can it be better? Sure. It can also be worse so we are extremely lucky to have health especially in uncertain times.
We don’t listen to Adam (and Greg) weekly but we listen regularly. They have excellent football material for US football fans; however, it’s not always geared towards player parents. This episode has a good bit of educational material as it relates specifically to Caden Clark’s journey. Jogo is great friends with Caden and it’s good to go full-circle on a lot of stuff. Furthermore, it’s validation that we are doing some things well, and perhaps others, not so much. Give it a listen if you want to learn more about:
Additional training: mental speed, hip mobility, ball control, center of gravity
Playing for a non-MLS club
Developing the love for the game
Encouraging decision making, mistakes, and losing the ball
Opinion on strength coaches
Note that all journeys are different but it’s always good to know what other families are doing in the pursuit of the dream and HOW they are doing it. After all, this is what this blog is about.
As the LouCity season started to wind down, we were blessed to have Jogo back home earlier than anticipated. It was great to spend unexpected (albeit limited) time together as his next endeavor was looming over the horizon. In fact, the rapid proliferation of Coronavirus accelerated a few of our planned activities with him.
As flattered as I always feel that Jogo still wants to train with me, it’s probably best for him to stay active in a team environment especially with the rumors of the USL-C season delaying its 2021 start. Don’t get me wrong, I love training with him. He makes me a better teacher and I hope I can still make him a better person and specifically a better player. One thing is for sure, when Jogo is around, Joana feels extra motivated to practice football and improve.
Luckily, we did manage to get some sessions in and work on some technical and tactical stuff we have been wanting to polish for a few months.
He spent just an adequate amount of time with us to celebrate an improvised version of Halloween. It was a fun one.
As most of you have watched via one of the Chumchat episodes, we are not a Golf family; however, that is slowly changing. While Jogo was in town, we managed to go play at Topgolf with the family for the first time. If I’m being honest, I was dead last but the highlight of the day was spending quality time with the extended family. It brings the boy so much joy to do that…in the end, football is only a small part of our lives.
By now, one would think that we are farewell experts but truth be told, these never get any easier especially during uncertain times. We love seeing Jogo pursue new opportunities but the sacrifice is significant.
We miss you A LOT but we know that you are doing important things for yourself and your future. Keep at it son. We are cheering you on from afar. Be humble, stay healthy, and we will see you when we see you. Coronavirus is unforgiving. Also be careful son. #theGomezway
Last week’s guest was former U20 MNT co-captain Paxton Pomykal. Learn about his reasons for playing ‘the beautiful game’ and whom he praises from youth national team camps. You’d never guess. He also updates the audience on how his rehab is coming along and he picks 5 players whom he would select to play along in a small sided pickup game. Hope you enjoy it.
En la medida en la que la temporada de LouCity llegaba a su final, nosotros teníamos la fortuna de tener a Jogo en casa antes de lo anticipado. Fué muy placentero convivir con él (aunque de forma muy limitada) efímeramente ya que su siguiente aventura no podía demorar. De hecho, la rápida proliferación del Coronavirus aceleró algunas de las actividades que teníamos planeadas con él.
Es recomfortante saber que Jogo todavía tiene deseos de entrenar conmigo. Sin embargo, era mejor que se mantuviera activo en un ambiente grupal especialmente si los rumores de que la temporada de USL-C demoraría su reanudación en el 2021 llegasen a ser ciertos. No me malinterpreten, me fascina entrenar con Jogo. Hacerlo inmediatamente me transforma en un mejor mentor y espero que él todavía se beneficie de mis enseñanzas. De hecho, una cosa es muy cierta, cuando Jogo entrena conmigo, Joana tiene una motivación extra para la práctica del fútbol y así continuar su ascenso.
Afortunadamente logramos entrenar por algunas sesiones y trabajar en unos pequeños detalles técnicos y tácticos los cuales habíamos querido pulir desde hace rato. ¡Quedaste listo hijo!
Jogo pasó la cantidad adecuada de tiempo con nosotros para celebrar un año más de Halloween. La verdad estuvo bastante divertido ya que fué algo muy espontáneo.
Como muchos ya han observado en uno de los episodios de Chumchat, no somos una familia “Golfista”; pero eso va cambiando poco a poco. Mientras Jogo estuvo con nosotros, nos escapamos a jugar a Topgolf con la familia. De hecho, debo confesar de que quedé en último lugar pero vale la pena resaltar que lo mejor fué haber convivido con TODA la familia. Le da tanto gusto al chamacón involucrar a Kammie.
Estas son lozas pesadas pero paulatinamente hemos desarrollado entereza . En realidad, Joana nunca se acostumbrará pero sabiendo que regresarás a casa nos consuela.
Te extrañamos como no tienes una idea pero sabemos que estás tratando de forjar un futuro. Nunca te des por vencido que desde acá te estamos apoyando. Se humilde, manténte sano y nos vemos cuando nos toque volver a vernos. Recuerda que el virus no discrimina. Ten mucho cuidado hijo. #theGomezway
El invitado de honor de la semana pasada fue nada más ni nada menos que Paxton Pomykal. Entérense de sus razones por las que juega “el deporte de las masas“. También nos comparte el progreso de su rehabilitacion y al final del episodio selecciona a 5 de sus cuates pamboleros para una cáscara imaginaria.