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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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My visit to Jogo this week after his RS debut…

Now that international borders are pretty much open, I decided to pay Jogo a visit in Spain. It was a trip that had been in the works ever since Claudia and Joana returned from dropping Jogo off about seven weeks ago. They spoke highly of the Donostia-San Sebastián (from here on out, referred to DSB -for short) attractions so I had to come and experience it for myself.

Jogo and mom. How could you not want to go visit him?

For those of you who have inquired about the possibility of visiting Jogo, you may find this post useful or it may totally dissuade you from visiting him due to the logistics involved. Either way, it contains some relevant (somewhat detailed) travel information and some caveats. It’s worth noting that now, more than ever, airline prices are very competitive and you can easily book a $500 round trip to DSB as long as you plan it well. Jogo will gladly welcome you with open arms (especially if you bring him goodies) and likely even give you tickets to one of his games while you are visiting. This is how the trip to DSB and my first week is going…

Ticket to the Real Sociedad B vs Málaga game

United States

Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)

A week ago today, I left home in Keller at 2:20 PM CST for a 4:59 PM CST Delta flight to Atlanta, GA. For a Thursday afternoon, the TSA lines at DFW were busier than normal but I made it through security by 3:05 PM CST which worked well with my football agenda. I then found a quiet place to work for about 90 minutes while watching the Leipzig vs Real Sociedad Europa League game and once it finished (final score: 2-2), waited a few minutes to board the flight to Atlanta. Unfortunately, the bad weather in Atlanta delayed our take off until 6 PM CST. Could that be a sign of what was about to come my way? I mean, everything had been carefully planned out but God’s plans always prevail…

Atlanta

After a 90 minute flight, I landed in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with plenty of time to spare due to an also delayed flight (things were not looking good already) to Amsterdam (more to come on the reason for the 2nd delay later) and although I had time to sit down to eat a full meal, I opted to just get a snack and work some more instead.

Our plane to Amsterdam finally took off around 11:10 PM CST (originally scheduled for 9:30 PM CST due to impending bad weather in the Netherlands) and off we went for 8 hours under very rainy Atlanta (not cold at all) conditions but at last, we were in the air.

Europe

The turbulence was crazy but that’s not the reason I didn’t sleep much during the flight. I even had the two available seats right next to me for extra space. The excitement of seeing Jogo perhaps was too much so I read, ate, and watched the second part of “A Quiet Place” for the second time.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of the many choices for a layover in Europe; others options are London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, etc. To be honest, Amsterdam was a bit of a handful this time and I may not stop there in the near future.

We landed in Amsterdam around 1:30 PM local time (6:30 AM CST) and my next flight was on time and scheduled to depart at 2:25 PM local time (7:25 AM CST). As soon as I disembarked, I rushed to the other side of the airport, dashed through customs and made my way to the B terminal in about 30 minutes. All of this took place while the airport’s PA system was continuously announcing that all airport activities would be suspended for the day after 2 PM local time (7 AM CST) due to high wind tropical storm Eunice. Departing at 2:25 PM (7:25 AM CST) was very unlikely due to the announcements but at last, by the grace of God, they let us depart. We were literally the last plane allowed to take off out of Amsterdam and off we went to Bilbao…

It is worth noting that last time I visited DSB back in July with the family, we had a layover in Paris and that worked out well despite the spike in summer travel. Maybe I’ll try it again next time. Similarly, last month, when Claudia came over to accompany Jogo, their layover was in Frankfurt without any delays. Ironically, by making a Frankfurt stop, she was closer to Zwickau (Johan) than she was to DSB. She will be making a Germany trip to see Johan very shortly as well.

Bilbao

We landed at 4:58 PM local time (9:58 AM CST), and everything appeared okay initially until I was informed that the US is considered a high risk country so they had me take a COVID test upon arrival (I showed them all proper documentation of my 3 doses ). Fortunately, the test result was negative but we now had just added an additional 45 minutes to my already long trip. Honestly, I am unsure what the protocol would have been had I tested positive.

Line to take the COVID test at the airport testing center

Once released from the airport’s COVID testing center, I quickly headed to the luggage carrousel to pick up my checked-in luggage. Unfortunately, I found a static conveyor belt with only one bag similar to mine, it had to be mine, right?…well, it wasn’t and a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. Ultimately, I knew the situation in Amsterdam was very critical and was very certain that my luggage had been left behind there due to the narrow time window and more so, inclement weather.

I then proceeded to the KLM customer service counter at the airport and sure enough, they were waiting for me with very specific instructions to receive my luggage. I then filled out some paperwork, submitted a claim (with Jogo’s DSB new home address) and was informed that I would have my luggage within 24 hours. They weren’t kidding. I got it the next day in DSB.

Luggage-less, I then made my way to the small Bilbao airport’s public transportation area. There’s no Uber in the city so my transportation choices were limited: finding my own private ride, or public transportation (a bus/taxi) to DSB. It’s about a 100 km ride to DSB’s bus station and a pleasant ride. The bus is a greyhound style type of bus whose cost is about €17 with plenty of room even if you are traveling with big suitcases.

It was a no brainer, since I only had my backpack to carry, I opted to take the bus. To purchase a ticket for it, there’s a kiosk outside of the airport but a debit/credit card is needed (caveat: you will need your card PIN to complete the transaction). Since I didn’t know my CC pin, I ended up paying cash to the bus driver. Make sure you don’t have large denomination bills (ex. > 50) to pay for your ticket as change may not be readily available. During the ticket purchasing ordeal, I saw the “bad guys” transportation parked outside the airport which was a little puzzling. Players fly but the bus still makes the trip? Interesting concept.

This bus was awaiting outside the airport. Sanse’s opponents the next day.
Donostia-San Sebastián (DSB)

I finally arrived to DSB’s bus station of the paradisiac area on Friday evening 8:30 PM local time (1:30 PM CST). I did not get to see the sunset since it was dark already but here is what I was able to witness the next few mornings. It’s breath-taking. From the DSB’s bus station to Jogo’s apartment, it’s a 30 minute walk which I was glad to embark on since I’d been sitting down for so long. Plus, I needed the Fitbit steps.

Football

Jogo’s first game

The next day, Jogo got me a ticket to watch his game; it was very exciting to watch it live. Entertaining match for sure. It was Jogo’s home debut and I was able to watch him live which was my primary objective. He made the starting 11 so anything else didn’t matter at that point for me.

Much needed result by Sanse but we try not to emphasize results over journeys when our kids are part of the game. We have Twitter fans who provide plenty of expert football analysis. It was a great game for me to watch and the best welcome gift Jonathan could have ever given me. As some of you may know, watching the game live beats any other watching method as one is able to see the off the ball movement that cameras do not normally capture. Also, there are a lot of intangibles (ex. fans, weather, referee, etc.) that are not portrayed accurately on TV that ultimately impact the player and the game. Witnessing those live is priceless. In the end, Jogo had a hockey assist and a near goal-line save. It was the second time in the same week impacting the score line. Hopefully he can continue earning minutes this week.

Europa League knockout game

As I wrap up this post up, I am heading to watch the Europa League knockout match between RS and Lepzig at Reale Arena with Jogo. It will be the second time in the past three months that I will have watched Tyler Adams (if he plays). The previous time was against Neymar, Mbappe, etc. at Red Bull Arena in Lepizig for a Champions League match back in November.

My first time watching a Europa League game was a match between FC Porto vs Young Boys back in September of 2019 at Estádio do Dragāo. Porto beat Young Boys 2-1. Great football memories watching Tecatito et al with Johan.

This was the celebration of Porto’s 2nd goal. Young boys scored via PK.
Jogo’s next game

Sanse’s next game is in Oviedo. I am looking forward to this one as I will be riding the bus (6 hour drive) to get there. I’ll probably spend a couple of nights sight-seeing the Asturias area as well. For now, I leave you with some images of the DSB area. I highly recommend it. It’s a paradise down here and other countries (ex. France and Portugal) are very close as well to top it all off.

Surfing is a huge activity in the DSB area. Playa de la Concha

Chumchat

This week’s guest is Jogo’s good friend Kevin Paredes. He talks about his adaptation period, harder training in Germany so far, short and long term goals and somehow, I get mentioned in this episode too. Kevin also talks about things to fix in the US Soccer’s approach to recruiting players and closes out with his own definition of success and emphasizes the role his family has played in his journey. Give the Chums a listen, they are improving their content with each episode and best of all, it’s free. You will also enjoy the next two USMNT guests.

Thanks for the read and as always reach out with any questions, requests, etc. #theGomezway

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!!!

Thank you for everything Louisville…

As I wait for my flight in Gate B30 at the DFW airport, I can’t help but think this may be my last trip to Louisville (at least in a while). I know Jogo will want to return to the beautiful Kentucky Derby city at some point in the near future but for now, this may be it for me. I resist the temptation of any sad thoughts crossing my mind but it’s an inexorable feeling nonetheless.

My late-night regular arrivals at the Muhammad Ali airport will be, in a strange way, sorely missed. The excitement of strolling down concourse B late at night filled up my heart with joy as it was an indication that I was about to see Jogo again.

Cardinals follow us everywhere. Jogo’s school mascot at his brick and mortar school is a cardinal

I must not complain; we played three playoff games after I started this post and I am grateful for that run. Unfortunately, OUR season fell short one game and while the club will have another opportunity for a third star next year, we will be *physically* moving on to a different setup. One that we hope is half as good as the one LouCity and everybody around it provided for us. Thus, in a weird coincidental way with Thanksgiving day (this post was supposed to be published Thanksgiving week), it’s time to publicly give thanks to some folks (in no particular order) who helped us in this process. Disclaimer: The omission of any names is by no means intentional, rest assured that Jogo will reach out (or already has) to you in some way but most importantly, you should know what role you played during his time in Louisville.

Ownership group

Thank you Brad Estes, John Neace and the rest of the ownership group. There is no doubt you are visionaries. Lynn family stadium just doesn’t happen out of thin air, the NWSL team requires meticulous planning and of course, the great youth academy just doesn’t form itself overnight. Yet, you have managed to successfully build all of that in a very short window and during unprecedented times. Now, the idea of developing talent from within is coming to fruition. It is just the beginning…as for us, we always knew we were coming to the right place. At the time, perhaps the idea of letting a 16-year old Texas boy be part of YOUR project, may have seemed as an outlier but you went along with it. Kuddos on trusting the technical staff’s recommendation and deciding to embark on this adventure with us. THANK YOU. We will forever be Louisville City FC ambassadors.

Jogo’s presentation 03.05.20 (Louisville, KY)

Technical staff

Coach Hack and Danny were the masterminds of this project with Danny the final executor and through thick and thin, we made it work. The detailed and targeted feedback (including frequent video analysis) helped Jogo become a better player. You pioneered a new pathway and now other young footballers see USL (and maybe LouCity) as a very viable option for their next football destination. You may not realize it but you started something special around the league.

We now part ways (for a while at least). Danny (and staff) will continue to amass victories and trophies while mastering new things with his relentless study of the game while Jogo will strive to maximize this new opportunity and represent us well. We have nothing but gratitude to the entire technical staff: Danny, Scott, Simon, George, Mario, Stu, Aurelio, Ben, Austin (all of you). Thank you for your patience while preparing Jogo for his next endeavor.

Special individuals

From the initial idea of serving as Jogo’s host family, to the first Easter, and even opening your home to Johan, you always made our family feel welcome. Through birthday celebrations and family dinners, to the talks we had at the LouCity Academy facility, you were always there for Jogo. Thank you. You are blessed in you lives because of the frequent display of these acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. Sanchez Family, your love and support was instrumental in Jogo’s adaptation period. We love you.

Garrett (aka G). You went beyond any self-imposed team *duties* with Jogo when you didn’t have to. You also didn’t have to drive Jogo to the grocery store every two weeks during COVID when he didn’t have a car or regularly check up on him, or keep our family up to date via texts. You, and your family, are God-sent gifts in so many ways and you have a unique place in our hearts. I hope you know how blessed we feel to have had the pleasure of meeting you and your family. We’ll be in touch.

Wynder Family. We never met your entire family but Jogo always spoke volumes of y’all. You were always very supportive of Jogo and he specifically asked me to include you in this post. Our family only had the chance to meet Josh and Elijah and through them we can see how special your entire family must be. They are two great players with great family values. They developed a brotherly bond with Jogo that will endure the rigors of time and distance. Maybe one day, we will meet all of you. For now, please know that we are thankful for all you did for Jogo (and Carl); one day, you will reap the fruits of your kindness.

Supporter Groups

Your support was relentless. It’s no coincidence the cathedral is a fortress. It takes A LOT for a team to go there and get a positive result. The impact you have on the players is understated. That 90th minute sprint is much easier with your support. We loved every moment of it and although we may have fallen short this season, more opportunities will continue to come. Jogo thanks you for always being there no matter the circumstances. Please know that every time Jogo went out there, he gave his best. Sometimes that may have not been enough but it was his best that day. Your support was always unconditional and we had never experienced anything like it even as fans ourselves. We will return to LouCity at some point of our lives in some capacity. For now, thank you and continue growing the beautiful sport in this awesome city. Thank you Coopers, Ledgehogs, LouCity Ladies, Scouse’s House, et al. You will all be missed greatly.

Fans

You blindly believed in our boy; he quickly became “Jogo”. You loved him and for that, our family loves you back. The continuous support on and off the field was felt every step of the way. You gave him a greater sense of belonging when it was most needed. From the guy at the Honda dealership offering him a free oil change to the little kids chanting his name in St. Petersburg wearing his jersey. Thank you for the unwavering support since day one until their last airport arrival.

Future LouCity players supporting LouCity 11.20.21 (St. Petersburg, FL)

No, deed ever went unnoticed. Thank you fans. For us, it now becomes a change where “Jogo” will not be known by many and he will be just another American footballer trying to pave his way into a tough European market. However, your support has given him the confidence to further believe in himself and do his best to go integrate with his new teammates halfway across the world.

Teammates

You embraced our Texas teenager with open arms. At times, he probably didn’t do (or say) the right things but you were patient with him and helped him regardless. Napo, you were the best roommate he could ever have during very difficult COVID times. Thank you for helping him integrate to the Louisville life and his new teammates. Oscar: you undoubtedly made Jogo a better left back. Never forget that. The rest of the leaders and mentors on the team (Paolo, Pat, Sean, Lexi, Luke, Niall, Cam, George, etc.), you aligned him with the mature, winning culture of the club and helped him grow mentally. Antoine: you talked to him about finances and now the boy is ready to invest. In the process, you always found a way to make him laugh. Ownby: you made sure he was always having fun and bettering himself as a footballer. Oscar and Jorge (Los Gatos), you made sure Jogo didn’t forget his ancestry. Wes: Thanks for looking after him as if he were your little brother. Jogo probably didn’t say it enough: but he loves you back. Tyler and Kyle: You reminded him of God’s importance in our lives. As a father, I cannot be any more grateful to y’all for being his family away from home. It was very comforting witnessing that you had his back on and off the field. I hope our paths cross again in some capacity. Stop by if you ever visit Keller, Texas (Lexi). Our home will always welcome all of you.

Media team

Haley, Kyle, Logan and Jonathan. Not in our wildest dreams would we have possibly imagined anyone doing as much for Jogo as you guys did. We are indebted to you for life. A top class club hires top talent. Keep up the good work. Your social media work is unique, funny, and the content is not only very creative but engaging. Thanks for making Jogo part of it. Our family, scattered in different places around the world, enjoyed every second of it.

Personally, the pictures (and caption) below were my favorites of them all.

You also did a great job managing the numerous interview platforms provided for Jogo. Our gratitude permeates to them as well: Courier Journal, Chasing a Cup, ESPN Louisville, VamosMorados, The Coopers (Barrel Proof #274) and other regular LouCity FC coverage outlets like: WBNA 21, WDRB Sports, WHAS11, WBKY, WLKY, and of course ESPN+ just to name a few. To the multiple photographers who facilitated pictures of Jogo and the team: your support was invaluable. At times, you probably thought you were only doing your job but know that in the process you were positively impacting a teenager without even knowing it…thank you as well.

The league:

USL has solidified as a pathway to professionalism since 2011. These days however, young prospects are leveraging both USL-1 and USL-C as a platform to continue their development. Thank you for providing that pathway for Jogo for almost three years. We are forever grateful for the years in USL-1 and USL-C that Jogo (and Johan) spent in the league. Thank you for all the support. We will always be USL ambassadors as well.

See you soon

There are many folks I unintentionally left out. You know who you are. Thank you. Unfortunately, all good stories must come to an end and sadly ours ends now. We are happy to have pursued this path especially when it was unchartered territory for a young Mexican-American teenager but we ALL, together, made it work. We leave this temporary journey better than when we joined it.

Rest assured that we will always “vouch” for you, the city, and everything associated with our process. There are already other young Texas prospects interested in pursuing the USL path.

We leave behind strong relationships that will endure the challenges of distance, and time. However, it’s still tough (even at my age) to process this temporary separation. For now, we must say “see you soon” and start our next adventure. ¡¡¡Muchísimas gracias amigos!!! #theGomezway

Our next home away from Texas…

First family trip to Spain

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.

Uncle César always repping LouCity and Racing Louisville

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.

César taking a quick nap at Charles De Gaulle airport -crossbranding-

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.

Jogo about to board his flight to Bilbao

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.

San Sebastián

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.

Dinner at Asador Alaia with team staff

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.

Claudia and myself enjoying a walk along the beach during a beautiful summer sunset

Xabi Alonso:

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.

Jogo and Xabi Alonso

UEFA Euros:

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.

Return home

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.

Introduction to Reale Arena 07.05.21

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.

The “process”

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.

El poema al fútbol

For those of us bohemian lovers of the beautiful game, the poem below is the closest description I could ever find to what “football” is and how it parallels life. Beware: it’s in Spanish.

Poema al Fútbol de Quique Wolff
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es el amor?, si nunca te hiciste hincha de un club…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es el dolor?, si jamás un zaguero te rompió la tibia y el peroné y estuviste en una barrera y la pelota te pego justo ahí…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber que es el placer?, si nunca diste una vuelta olímpica de visitante…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es el cariño?, si nunca la acariciaste de chanfle entrandole con el revés del pie para dejarla jadeando bajo la red…
  • Escucháme, ¿cómo vas a saber lo que es la solidaridad?, si jamás saliste a dar la cara por un compañero golpeado desde atrás…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es la poesía?, si jamás tiraste una gambeta…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es la humillación, si jamás te metieron un caño…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es la amistad?, si nunca devolviste una pared…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es el pánico?, si nunca te sorprendieron mal parado en un contragolpe…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es morir un poco?, si jamás fuiste a buscar la pelota dentro del arco…
  • Decíme viejo, ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es la soledad? si jamás te paraste bajo los tres palos, a 12 pasos de uno que te quería fusilar, y terminar con tus esperanzas…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es el barro?, si nunca te tiraste a los pies de nadie para mandar una pelota sobre un lateral…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es el egoísmo?, si nunca hiciste una de más cuando tenías que dársela al 9 que estaba sólo…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es el arte?, si nunca, pero nunca inventaste una rabona…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es la música?, si jamás cantaste desde la popular…
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es la injusticia?, si nunca te sacó tarjeta roja un referi localista..
  • Decíme, ¿cómo vas a saber lo que es el insomnio?, si jamás te fuiste al descenso…
  • ¿Cómo, cómo vas a saber lo que es el odio?, si nunca hiciste un gol en contra…
  • ¿Cómo, pero cómo vas a saber lo que es llorar, si, llorar?, si jamás perdiste una final en un mundial sobre la hora con un penal dudoso.
  • ¿Cómo vas a saber querido amigo?, ¿Cómo vas a saber lo que es la vida?, si nunca, jamás…jugaste al fútbol…

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

First family trip to Germany

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

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

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

Frankfurt Airport

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

220 km/hr in the autobahn traveling to Berlin 07.26.21

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

Aldis

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

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

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

Downtown Zwickau

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

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

August Horch Museum

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

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

Stadium Pictures

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

Start of the season

First game

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

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

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

Second game

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

Berlin

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

Berlin Wall Memorial

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

Berlin Television Tower (aka Fernsehturm Berlin)

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

Prague

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

Return to Germany

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

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

Family at Johan’s apartment

Chumchat

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

Young footballers need to get a passport ASAP

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

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

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

Advantages:

Multiple Nationalities:

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

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

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

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

Master/learn another language:

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

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

COVID-19:

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

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

Traveling/tourism:

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

Professional reasons:

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

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

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

Cost:

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

Disadvantages:

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

Multiple Nationalities:

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

Attention:

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

Jogo posing with some fans. Credit: LouCity

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

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

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